Law graduate Takunda Bimha has spent the past 12 years managing talented comedians, such as Trevor Noah and Loyiso Gola, and launching SA’s only international comedy festival.
Now he’s taking his show on the road. Bimha says it was by chance that he fell into the world of comedy. As a university graduate, he got the opportunity to work as a producer on the sketch comedy programme Pure Monate Show. He discovered he had a passion for comedy and spotted a business opportunity in the abundance of comedic talent in SA.
“You had all of these talented kids coming up in the comedy circuit, but they didn’t have a solid business model,” recalls Bimha. “So I decided to use my legal background to establish a comedy agency that could tap into this young talent and make the most of it.”
Bimha established Podium, SA’s first black-owned and -managed comedy agency, with the key strategy of building comedic brands and not just managing acts. The strategy proved extremely effective, as the company’s list of clients, both past and present, reads like a who’s who of SA comedy’s best. It includes Trevor Noah, Loyiso Gola, Kagiso Lediga, David Kibuuka, Eugene Khoza, Conrad Koch, Stuart Taylor and Tall A$$ Mo.
Towards the end of Podium’s first decade in existence, Bimha began to travel the world and it gave him an idea of what local comedy really needed to take it to the next level. “A fundamental challenge I identified while travelling is that while we do have talented comedians in SA who can compete against the best in the world, we don’t have enough international exposure,” he says.
In 2015, Bimha established the three-day Johannesburg International Comedy Festival to bring in comedians from all over the world to perform alongside the best SA has to offer. Having never staged a festival before, he partnered with Gregoire Furrer, the founder and organiser of the Montreux Comedy Festival in Swtizerland, which has been running for 27 years. Furrer’s guidance and support proved invaluable.
The festival takes place in March of every year at various locations in the Braamfontein and Newtown precincts of Johannesburg. “If you include everything from Joburg Theatre to Gold Reef City, we’re talking about close to 8 000 theatre seats in a 7km radius,” says Bimha. “So this makes downtown Joburg the perfect place to stage a festival of this kind.”
In March 2018, the festival will return for its third edition, but in the run-up to the main spectacle, Bimha is taking one of the festival events on the road to three South African cities, including the City of Gold.
Trending Comics brings together a line-up of some of SA’s fastest rising comics and this time, the selection includes Loyiso Madinga, Robby Collins, Neil Green and Schalk Bezuidenhout. The four funnymen will perform at the Cape Town Comedy Club (20 & 21 October); Station 43 in Durban (28 & 29 October) and Goliath Comedy Club in Johannesburg (3 & 4 November).By KIBO NGOWI