By Helen Herimbi (Afripop contributor)
Earlier this year, Saturday Night Live hired Sasheer Zamata – their first black female comedian since 2007 – and world peace was achieved, it starting raining One Million Randela bills and oh, look, a unicorn. That’s cool for white America but what about the visibility of African funny-women as well as that of African women who live abroad? Well, if you peruse the ‘net, you’ll see that – to borrow the catchphrase of the Vodacom advert dictator – “we’ve been having it”.
So maybe Lorne Michaels does think women who aren’t named Tina Fey can be funny after all. This year’s brouhaha about black American female comedians being asked to audition for spots on Saturday Night Live pointed out the lack of diversity (and complacency in it) in the mainstream entertainment industry. But, on Youtube, women of all races have been thriving with not only clips of their stand-up comedy sets but full on comedy web-series’ that are the woman’s vision from start to finish.
Saturday Night Live eventually hired Sasheer Zamata – their first black female comedian since 2007 – and world peace was achieved, it starting raining One Million Randela bills and oh, look, a unicorn. That’s cool for white America but what about the visibility of African funny-women as well as that of African women who live abroad? Well, if you peruse the ‘net, you’ll see that – to borrow the catchphrase of the Vodacom advert dictator – “we’ve been having it”.
Celeste Ntuli is fast becoming one of the most sought-after comedians in South Africa. The blonde Zulu woman was one of the headliners at Comedy Central’s Sex: Live which took place at the Lyric Theatre in Johannesburg in February this year and featured the likes of Trevor Gumbi, John Vlismas, Anele Mdoda and more.
Celeste Ntuli is one of the leading voices of the vernacular comedy circuit and often headlines franchise events like the 99% Zulu comedy show. As an actress, she stars on Dstv drama series Isibaya, and has even filmed some sketches for Late Nite News with Loyiso Gola. But as a stand-up comedian, Celeste’s material centres on womanhood, sex and men – all delivered in a no-holds barred upfront manner. Sort of like a big Lil Kim. In the video above, she tackles sex as the most important aspect of an R&B song, Maskhandi as music for whiners and the poeticism of jazz.
Yagazi Emezi (Nigeria)
Speaking of sex, Nigerian artist and blogger, Yagazie Emezi isn’t shy about cautioning women of the perils of good penis. The visual artist, who is based in New Mexico and New York, has just launched her own website (http://www.yagazieemezi.com/). Here, she curates images and articles specifically geared “to the cultural preservation of the African aesthetic.” Yagazie is not a comedian in the traditional sense but she sure is funny in her Youtube videos which she regularly uploads.
Yvonne Orji (Nigeria)
Another Nigerian comedienne and clothing line owner who spends her time between Lagos, New York and Los Angeles is Yvonne Orji. You may have seen her hilarious take on ladies on social media who caption their done-up selfies with that much memefied line from Beyoncé’s ***Flawless – “I woke up like this”. Yvonne often shoots skits that deal with Nigerians living in America but also uses the web to respond quickly, and with dollops of wit, to topical pop culture trends. Remember the “Shit White People Say” viral videos?
Jean Grae (South Africa)
While some comedians and webseries creators use the ‘net to chime in on issues in their community, rapper and some time stand-up comedian Jean Grae brings it home. All the way home. As in, in her own house, with her real friends and stories (which she and a cast act out) about her own experiences. In Life With Jeannie, the South African Brooklynite lets the audience in on her often-failed/failing relationships and the hilarity that she and her friends come up with to save face and just live.
Anne Hirsch (South Africa)
Anne Hirsch, who is based in Cape Town, South Africa is a stand-up comedian, actress, writer, (s)Talk Show host on radio and satirist. On The Anne Hirsch Show, the eccentric comedian who believes Angelina Jolie is her BFF, interviews celebrities, comedians and even Helen Zille. Her dream interview is Democratic Alliance politician Lindiwe Mazibuko but the Linds keeps avoiding Anne. Maybe it’s because Anne insists on extracting a strand of hair from her guests and keeping it – together with the strands of previous guests – in a jar. Creepy. But mostly just hilarious. The episode above is one where Anne invited South African first lady of funny, Tumi Morake where they take the piss at patriarchy in a skit about a product that makes women funny.
Issa Rae (USA)
Of course, this list would not be complete without a nod to Issa Rae who is born to an American mother and Senegalese father. Her critically acclaimed Awkward Black Girlweb series has served as a launch pad for her other projects like the miniseries, The Choir and mockumentary, The F Word. Three years ago,almost to the day, we were introduced to Issa’s character, J, as someone who hated her job, was socially awkward and came up with the worst and best (at the same damn time) rap lyrics. Then Pharrell – he who has admitted he’s not a vampire – decided to back Awkward Black Girl and Issa’s endeavours through his creative company, i am OTHER. Here’s the very first episode of Awkward Black Girl: