INTERVIEW: Loyiso Gola

Published in The Music (VIC) on, Mar 2017

South African-born comedian Loyiso Gola’s candid and politically charged comedy can often make punters cringe, but as he tells Daniel Cribb, that’s not always the intention.

Having moved to London from South Africa only two weeks ago, Loyiso Gola’s body clock is out of whack when he answers the phone in his Melbourne hotel room ahead of his debut Australian tour. “I’m just consuming the internet,” he begins, waiting for a break in the awful weather so he can go out and explore.

The frequent traveller’s debut US stand-up special dropped last year and performing to so many different audiences around the world, he’s often navigating what will and won’t hit the sweet spot. But Gola’s current show, Dude, Where’s My Lion, remains the same wherever he travels (most of the time).

“In South Africa, the neighbourhoods were separated by race and so right next to where I grew up there was a Muslim community,” Gola tells. “When I do the Muslim jokes in America, they are really tense about them, because in their media and consumption of everyday life, they view Muslims in a specific way, but I talk about this candidly, and so they’re cringing the whole time.”

Such reactions can sometimes lead Gola to over-analyse comedy (“which is one of my pet hates”) and given him a reputation as someone who ventures down avenues that can make people uncomfortable. “At the end of the day, I’m still telling jokes, so I want the people to laugh,” he explains.

“Sometimes I really feel bad making people feel uncomfortable, because I go, ‘Yeah, this person paid to see stand-up.’ That’s how much brain computes it, but then my other brain goes, ‘What do you want to say to them?’ So I say the thing I want to say and then I feel bad,” he laughs. “I don’t know how Australians are going to take the show,” he adds.

While he hasn’t toured Down Under before, he’s become a regular name in Australia through his role as a correspondent on ABC’s The Weekly With Charlie Pickering. “I just texted [Charlie] now and I’m hoping we can get dinner,” Gola says. “I’m going to meet him on Monday and see what his say, but we’ve been talking about trying to get me on the show while I’m here.”

He’ll also have to brush up on Dude, Where’s My Lion before a run of comedy festival dates around the country. “I haven’t done it in such a long time,” he tells. “I was in the middle of writing a new show and had to go back and remember [Dude, Where’s My Lion].

“The [new] show is called Unlearn. We’ve learnt so much and everything we do is learnt – how we eat, walk and dress. Some of the stuff that we’ve learnt throughout our lives is bad or makes no.

“The show is about unlearning things – we need to unlearn what history is, what religion is and a lot of habits about ourselves…it’s an extremely complicated show.”