Leading South African comedian David Kau’s name is synonymous with many firsts. At just 32-years-old, this Kroonstad-born comic began his career as the first black stand-up comedian in the 1998 Smirnoff Comedy Festival in Cape Town. The only black person on stage out of 44 comics.
“I’d never had experience in stand-up comedy,” recalls David, “the first comedy show I ever saw was the first one I was in.” And for the next few years David was a headliner in this international comedy festival.
In 1998 David – who had begun to study electrical engineering in 1995 before dropping it for acting at the University of Cape Town in 1996 then pursuing a Performers Diploma in Speech and Drama – performed The Rainbow Nation Tour, his first one-man show.
David wrote and performed The Rainbow Nation Tour to graduate but continued with politically savvy comedy with his next play, Introducing The Peoples Comic in 2000. Of his material David says, “it isn’t all influenced by politics – and it wasn’t politically influenced back then – instead it’s always about what’s current.”
In 2001 David appeared in sketches on the TV show, The Phat Joe Show. Having already carved out a niche in the market as the best black comedian in the country – if not the only, David left the Mothercity for Johannesburg where he performed in Heavyweight Comedy Jams from 2000 and Comedy Black Out in 2002 til 2004. The line up included budding comedians Kagiso Lediga, Tshepo Mogale and Roni Modimola.
In 1997 David then joined forces with his university friend, Kagiso Lediga who “wanted to make films while I wanted to do stand-up comedy” to start the Pure Monate Show (PMS) which only aired in 2004. They then recruited the likes of Tshepo Mogale, Roni Modimola, Joey Rasdien, Chris Forrest, Riaad Moosa, David Kibuuka, Loyiso Gola and Kim Engelbrecht to partake in what was “inspired by In Living Colour. We just wanted to create a comedy sketch show because there wasn’t one in South Africa.” The second season of PMS premiered in 2005.
David soon grew tired of the fact that there wasn’t a space for black stand-up comedians to showcase their work in their own languages. So Blacks Only comedy shows, that he started as a one-night-only affair in 2005 is now in its sixth year. The show – occurring 3 or 4 times a year in Johannesburg – now travels to Cape Town, Durban and Bloemfontein’s Macufe Arts Festival.
As a comedy first, Blacks Only catapulted David into instant household name status and proved that he is indeed a forerunner in the comedy industry. It is befitting then that in 2006 David performed and released his first stand-up comedy show DVD, I Did These Jokes First. He is currently performing its prequel; I should’ve Done These Jokes First.
David has also wrapped his first feature film, Hoteleng that was produced by him and Teboho Mahlatsi. No stranger to movies, David has also appeared in Gums and Noses and Akin Omotoso’s God Is African. From the big screen to the small one, in 2008 David became the face and head judge of Fanta’s So You Think You’re Funny reality show. They are currently working on the third season.
This stage star that was named the Star Comedian at the Stars of Mzansi Awards says, “Charity begins at home – Kroonstad.” With his NPO, 111 Kau Foundation, David is currently putting children from his hometown through school and helping feed and clothe kids at Dimphonyana Tsa Lapeng orphanage in Midrand. He is also a 46664 It’s No Joke ambassador.
Nine years ago David was the first, and only, Kroonstad celebrity to host David Kau’s Annual Christmas Party for his friends and fans. Today this is one of the more popular events on South Africa’s social calendar. With so many career-firsts it’s no wonder that David Kau is one of the most sought-after comedians on the continent.