Thenjiwe is an entrepreneurial comedian and actress from KwaMashu, South Africa. Her triumphant work in comedy has taken her all over the world and has even landed her own TV show, Judge Thenjiwe Khambule.
Hi Thenjiwe. How is life treating you?
Life is good. I am blessed to be doing what I love: making the world a better place, one laugh at a time. In my comedy career I can see a clear path ahead, with room for growth.
When you say “the world” you really mean it. You perform to multilingual crowds all over the world in both English and Zulu. How do you prevent jokes getting lost in translation?
What works for me is to translate the story, not the joke.
In South Africa we have eleven official languages and a few unofficial ones. In school it’s compulsory to study a minimum of two and I did three so my brain is trained to switch. I often only decide which language to use when I'm on stage based on the audience demographic.
But some jokes just don’t translate. Zulu, fo example, is a very poetic language where humour usually comes from a play on words. It can’t be translated as the punchlines won’t land the same way, so I don’t even try.
Even if I tell the same story in different languages, the jokes and punchlines might not be in the same place.
What has spurred you to perform at Edinburgh this year?
The Edinburgh Festival is the biggest arts festival in the world and it’s always been on my bucket list. Being from a third world country, my currency disappears when exchanged into sterling so it has taken me a long time to save the money.
But when the world shut down for two years, I was reminded how short life can be. I lost my younger brother Freedom (yes that was his name) who was about to turn 30. It prompted me to have a look at the things that I really wanted to do before I kick the bucket. Performing at the Fringe was right on top.
Thank you for sharing, it’s amazing that you’ve achieved your goal. Speaking of goals, your show is called ‘The Mandela Effect’, but what do you really want the audience to remember the most?
First of all I want the audience to laugh. I want the audience to know that Africa has a sense of humour and we laugh even in the midst of difficult situations.
And I want to expose the audience to the Africa they don’t show in the media. I want to remind the audience about certain historical facts that they misremember about the African continent. There are problems in Africa and a lot of them are well advertised all over the world. But there are also many things to enjoy in Africa.
That’s a beautiful message Thenjiwe. Thank you so much for speaking with me and I can’t wait to see your show in August.
Thenjiwe’s debut stand-up show The Mandela Effect is at Just The Tonic – Cask Room at 2.25pm from 3rd – 28th August (not 14th). For tickets go to www.edfringe.com.