Full name: Zintle Thokozani Ngubeni
Place of Birth: Soweto, Gauteng
“Naturally Caffeinated” (or NatCaf, for all you lazy sods who abbreviate evrthng) is the one and only improv troupe at Rhodes University. Specializing in short-form improvisation (think “Whose Line is it Anyway?”), NatCaf is sure to make you laugh with their unscripted storytelling and impromptu shenanigans. So if you’re looking for a little hilarity in your life, come check out a live NatCaf performance! (And if you’re not looking for a little hilarity in your life . . . psh. Lame.).”
Tyson Ngubeni, co-founder of the Naturally Caffeinated improv troupe, finalist of Comedy Central’s amateur stand-up comedy competition and 2014 Rhodes Bachelor of Journalism graduate has donned the proverbial boxing gloves and stepped back into the ring to complete his Honours in Drama.
Zintle Thokozani Ngubeni admits to having a brief high school spell as a rapper, during which time he waxed lyrical under the pseudonym of ‘Mic Tyson’. Times have changed and he has certainly grown since those teenage years, and prefers the much more characteristic ‘Tyson’ nowadays.
Despite having known him as Tyson for the past three years, I cannot get over that mishap of a nickname. Thus, the following introduction:
Stepping to the ring now, weighing in at 68 kilograms, at a height of 1 metre 68 centimetres, Rhodes BJourn graduate, face of NatCaf, and self-proclaimed closet singer: Miiiiiiiic….. Tyyysooooon!!!
RN : What triggered the comedian inside you? Where did it all start?
TN: Jeez, it’s really difficult to pinpoint it to a single moment, but I don’t know, I’ve always been very withdrawn and liked watching people…
RN: So it started before you came to Rhodes?
TN: Oh definitely, long before. But then I think I really started tapping into the funny in high school, with the people I was hanging out with. They were just really random and they said the most random things.
RN: So do you have any childhood idols in the comedy scene?
TN: Well I never really started thinking about comedy as a craft probably until I was out of school. Like 2009. That’s when things started clicking differently for me, I started seeing it as a very structured kind of craft.
RN: No mentors, or any guiding figures?
TN: Not necessarily, there were people that I found funny that I tried to hang out with. My cousin, the one that I stayed with in high school, he was one person whose humour I really liked. A lot. But no mentors, really.
RN: Okay, can you run us through things you’ve got involved in during your undergrad years at Rhodes?
TN: First year was really just kind of settling in. The first thing that I did, comedy-wise, at Rhodes was a Leavers’ dinner for the Muslim Students Association, and that was at the end of the year, just before exams in my first year. That’s when it clicked that actually this place is a goldmine for comedy.
So second year I started putting myself out there a little bit more, dining hall events, and then NatCaf started in my second year as well and ya, I just started writing more stuff that is specific to where we are.
RN: So was NatCaf your brainchild alone, or who did you start that up with?
TN: No, not even. It was a guy called Matthew Jackson, at the time he was a volunteer worker for Ubom!, the drama company that is based here, and I mean he was here for a few months and then he noticed that this university is far bigger than the one he went to, in the States. And the thing is in the States it’s quite common for every university to have an improv comedy troupe, according to him. So he was like why not start one here? When we started off we had like seven performers, and then eight including Matt. Ya.
RN: Well you guys have opened a lane for comedy at Rhodes, how did you guys set it up? Who did you speak with to get it underway?
TN: It was pretty much Matt from the beginning, who did all the organizing, and searching for where we could perform. After he left, because we only started performing September 2011, and then he left South Africa in October, so after he left it was sort of just taking up the mantle that he started, with the people at the Union, etc. Something that we really want to push more that we haven’t really done since he was here are workshops. Working with local schools and running improvisation workshops with them. It’s quite a fun thing both for us and the students.
RN: Any advice for people wanting to do something similar to what you guys did with NatCaf?
TN: YES. Let us not stop talking about it, coming together and sharing ideas. Something else that I hope to get running is a kind of platform or forum of sorts, where people who are either interested in thinking about comedy or trying out comedy can come together and share ideas, where we can see what works and what doesn’t. Also that way, Rhodents can have a pool of people to choose from in terms of if they want a host for something or if they want a comedian, you know? So just a platform outside of NatCaf where people can share ideas.
RN: 6 June 2001? Does that day ring any bells for you?
TN: Hahaha… it was my birthday… I was turning 13. Still one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. If not THE most embarrassing. *cringes*.
Ya, it was my 13th birthday, I got to school all excited and then I got a surprise. My teacher told me my mom had organized for the local baker to bring a cake to share with my friends. At this stage I was all like “oh that’s a nice touch, thanks mom”.
So the cake arrived, and I think we were in media studies, in the library, and the cake arrived and ah it’s got this gorgeous white icing and like, hundreds and thousands of sprinkles. And then the teacher, Ms. Leftbridge, she was the librarian, started cutting the cake and everyone started taking their slices and so on. As we got to the middle of the cake now, and mind you there were still a lot of kids who hadn’t gotten their slices yet, there was this green patch of mould right in the middle of the cake. So now I’m like oh noooo… at the same time some girl is like “awwww sis!!” and everyone started bringing back their slices and ya. The next day at assembly I was so depressed. It was horrible. Argh! Just horrible.
RN: On your blog, you say that insanity is bliss. Can you elaborate on that for us?
TN: Yes. Haha. Insanity is bliss, I dunno. I find the most random things funny so… *sighs*. There is something really insane, for me, in finding comedy in the most random of things, and I think ‘Insanity is Bliss’ is probably the working title for my first sort of, one man stand- up show. Because of the way that I think, it’s a degree of insanity, ya. I embrace things that are different, I think I am very different in many ways. Ya, I just embrace insanity.
RN: In one sentence, describe your relationship with comedy?
TN: I love it… I fear it… I’m intrigued by it and I am consumed by it.
RN: Okay, a few more quick questions… Favourite actor?
TN: Don Cheadle.
RN: Favourite singer?
TN: A toss-up between Otis Redding and Maxwell.
RN: Favourite comedian?
TN: Dave Chappelle. Hands down, without a doubt.
RN: Favourite colour wine gums?
TN: Green… Joh! Hahaha.