She is known as the Queen of Comedy – a title Celeste Ntuli says brings with it an amount of pressure she needs to live up to every time she steps out on stage.
“When I first started out, I was a nobody and could go on stage and just do my show, but now when I’m being announced, that title always comes up and every time I feel I need to do an even better job than the last time because there’s an expectation of greatness,” Ntuli said.
Ntuli will have audiences in stitches with her one-woman comedy show, Black Tax, at the Boardwalk on Saturday night, October 29.
The comedienne who is on a nationwide tour, said Black Tax was about the “experience of successful black individuals and their experiences with family and extended family members”.
“It’s about the responsibilities black people face once they become successful. It’s about knowing you can’t visit your mother’s house without a two litre cooldrink and also about the pressures we put on ourselves.
“It deals with the fact that you have to pay where you come from before you can pay for your future, while also looking at social issues the country is currently facing,” Ntuli said.
Ntuli, 38, was born in Empangeni, KwaZulu-Natal and later relocated to Durban to study entertainment technology at Durban University of Technology.
She said her comedy career happened by sheer luck when she came across a poster about a comedy show “and I called the organiser to put me in the show”.
“I was confident in the fact that I could do it, that I could make people laugh because I’ve always been a joker and I’ve never looked back.”
Ntuli had been doing comedy long before she made it onto one of the country’s leading telenovelas, Isibaya – which airs on Mzansi, channel 161– on which she plays Siphokazi.
Ntuli appeared on season two of So You Think You’re Funny and was doing stand-up before auditioning for the show.
She said that, during her audition, “no one knew Isibaya would be as big as it is” and added she was told from the beginning her character was not to be one of the main leads in the telenovela.
Ntuli plays the oldest of patriarch Mpiyakhe Zungu’s wives and her character has been met with open arms by women across the country.
“When I started on Isibaya, I was just grateful being able to pay my rent because I knew my character wasn’t a major part of the show. But, as time went on, audiences fell in love with my character and I got more airtime and was even nominated for an award,” Ntuli said.
On performing in Port Elizabeth, Ntuli said she was very excited to be back in the city where she performed her first solo show and added 2016 had been a year of many firsts for her after leaving her management agency which had been representing her for a while.
“This year I was able to do my one-woman tour. I separated from my management and it’s been a learning curve for me, from managing my finances to managing the gigs that I do and I’m just excited to be on my own. I landed Isibaya on my own and now I’m just growing my brand,” Ntuli said.
Though according to her, she has not faced many challenges throughout her career, Ntuli felt after leaving her management agency she would need to learn “what it means to work”.
“This is the challenge, being out on my own, working for myself and knowing my worth. Asking exactly what I deserve and not being ashamed to ask for it, but also knowing what to put on stage and doing justice to the people who took their time to spend money to come and see me,” she said.
Asked about comedy in the country, Ntuli said she thought the comedy industry was growing but added there were not enough comedians, let alone women comedians.
“It’s become such a formidable genre, taken more seriously with award shows such as the Comics Choice Awards. The scope has been widened and it’s gone beyond just jokes. It’s an industry,” Ntuli said.
In terms of her brand of comedy, Ntuli said she has been described as “in your face”, but said she was honest and talked about what she goes through and said she wanted audiences to “feel like we were chilling at my house when they leave my shows”.
Ntuli said women who wanted to get into the industry “must have the balls – and if they don’t, [they must] go out and buy them”.
“Comedy is tough. Be a lady, but understand there’s no time for sissies. Be confident, because if you’re not comfortable, you’ll lose your audience. But most importantly, be funny,” she said.
Even though she is known as the Queen of Zulu comedy, Ntuli said she did not want potential fans to be put off by the title, because her jokes are “for everyone”.
“Initially I felt the title would limit me because my comedy is not only for Zulu people, because I speak about life experiences and wouldn’t want people not to come to my shows for fear of not understanding me,” Ntuli said.
Bold, blatantly honest and as hilarious as they come, Ntuli will knock you off your feet with her Black Tax show.
The show at the Boardwalk on October 29 starts at 7.30pm and tickets are available at Computicket at R140 to R160 per person.