Comedian Tyson Ngubeni talks about his fast rise to fame and how his life changed

Tyson Ngubeni says he can't wait to seize the opportunities that come his way.
Tyson Ngubeni says he can't wait to seize the opportunities that come his way.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

Mzansi’s internet sensation and comedian Tyson Ngubeni, also known by fans as his alter ego Bob O’Connor, has had an amazing journey since he burst into fame at the beginning of SA’s initial lockdown.

Having solidified his brand, Tyson opened up to TshisaLIVE about how his his super-fast fame has changed his life, and what he’s hoping to achieve.

“It’s allowed me more opportunities. I wouldn’t say I am famous or anything like that, but I am grateful that more and more people have been exposed to my work, which has led to brands like Comedy Central and Savanna taking note. It has changed my life for the better,” Tyson said.

The comedian will join an impressive line-up on this year’s season of Comedy Central Live at the Savanna Virtual Comedy Bar. Other names to look forward to in the show include Nina Hastie and Trevor Gumbi.

Tyson shared facts about himself in an interesting Q&A:

For people who don’t know, please tell us who Tyson is?

I write and burst into characters. At heart, Im more awkward than my work suggests and I just love performing and learning.

What or who is your biggest influence or role model?

I draw from so many sources: Thuso Mbedus relentless dedication and excellence; Lebo Mathosas fearless expression, and; Pep Guardiolas ingenuity are a few examples.

What are you passionate about?

I’m super-fascinated with what the human voice can do. I love listening to people and I’m moved by empathetic and compassionate people. 

Are you a ‘I want my work to speak for itself or ‘I want people to understand the person behind the work type of person?

The best way I get to know people more is in person. That’s when I ask a million questions and truly connect.

Your fan base is increasing at a rapid rate. Is that a good or bad thing?

Im grateful to anyone who enjoys the content I share and other work as well. We should start a movement to slander sparkling water. 

Many young people look up to you, some of your peers criticise you and others are watching your journey. What does this mean to you?

There’s always someone watching, I suppose, even before the events of the past year. I have younger nephews and nieces and as far as criticism goes, it’s all about getting better at the work we do. I am always grateful for that.

Covid-19 changed life as we knew it. What are some of the life lessons you gained from the pandemic?

Gratitude has been the biggest takeaway. For family, for health and for perspective. The nature of the pandemic has also shown how interdependent we all are and how we have a stake in everyone’s wellbeing.

To help his fans get to know him better, Tyson shared random info about himself:

The first thing I do after I wake up in the morning is pray.

Whenever I find myself in an awkward conversation or awkward silence I just let it linger. I’m fascinated by the things people do to fill those gaps sometimes.

What my grade 12 English teacher probably remembers me for? I don’t know. I was a slightly above-average student.

I was always good at imitating teachers at school.

When I’m having a bad day, I remember that, even back then, I knew TKZee meant to say “fiesta” and not “fiasco”.

The biggest misconception about being a comedian is that people think I’m an extrovert.

When I stand in front of my mirror I see the person responsible for the gospel of “Amasi Without Sugar”.

People are often surprised to find out I speak fluent Dutch.