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PEOPLE OF THE YEAR 2023

Comedian of the Year runners-up: Coconut Kelz and Tums the Narrator

Comedian of the Year runners-up: Coconut Kelz and Tums the Narrator
Comedian Lesego Tlhabi during an interview at Tashas on 1 September 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Tlhabi, who goes by her alter ego Coconut Kelz, has created a gormless black princess in order to lampoon white delusions – leaving a trail of confusion in her wake. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sunday Times / Alaister Russell)

Coconut Kelz has made us laugh – and then think – with her stinging political and social satire, while Tumi Mmope, AKA Tums the Narrator, narrated the complexities that come with living in a communal building.

Coconut Kelz

Enter Lesego Tlhabi – writer, performer, podcast host and one of South Africa’s most fearless satirists, best known for her alter ego Coconut Kelz, a white woman trapped in a black body. Kelz became a viral sensation in 2018, and soon hit the small screen, hosting her Coconut Kelz Election Special on BET Africa in May 2019.

“I didn’t really enter the industry with the intention of being a comedian. I think because Kelz is so funny, that’s where I’ve landed up, but I think for me, it’s always been about satire, about politics, about the message behind the laugh,” she said.

Kelz confronts political and societal issues and racism head on. “I feel [she’s] the best way to get people to listen, because once you get people disarmed; once you get people to relax – that’s how you can really get people to listen,” said Tlhabi.

Read more in Daily Maverick: People of the Year 2023: The awesome, awful and truly evil

Reflecting on the past five years in an interview with Daily Maverick, the 35-year-old described how she received death threats and struggled to get brand deals when she started posting Kelz’s vlogs on social media. She’s come a long way since. In 2022, Tlhabi won the alter ego award for Coconut Kelz at the DStv Content Creator Awards.

This September, Tlhabi moved to Paris to pursue a masters in communication. She says she’s taking this time to “take a break, reconfigure things, and decide where I want to go – then go for it”. Given her track record, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suspect that her next career move will be a work of art.

“I still hope to create content. I think podcasting is still very much in my future; content creation, writing,” she said. Tlhabi launched the second season of her hit podcast Convos and Cocktails in September 2023. She foresees herself stepping back from performing, but says Kelz will remain part of her life.

“I really do post when I feel I have something to say using Kelz’s voice,” she said. “I don’t think there’ll ever be a time where I don’t feel like Kelz is a great vehicle for what I want to say, but her use would be less commercial.”

Tums the Narrator

The other contender in this category was Tumi Mmope, AKA Tums the Narrator. Bored in lockdown, she started playing around with TikTok, one day posting a skit about life in her apartment building, which became known as Die Komplex. In the video, Mmope narrated the complexities that come with living in a communal building.

“I just shared the things that are happening in my complex, and it went viral,” she said.

Now, Mmope has more than 342,000 TikTok followers. This year, she won Content of the Year at the DStv Content Creator Awards.

Mmope, who is the marketing director for Yara Africa, said she uses TikTok as a stress-reliever, and views her followers as a community.

“I’ve created a community where I can be transparent; I can be myself.” DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

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  • Glenda Caine says:

    I shattered. Can’t find the print version of DM the Upper Highway area, KZN. And when I look I’m online am told the page has been “captured”. I’d set Christmas Eve aside to read and enjoy. How did I lose out? I’ll get over this with the help of strong🍹and therapy. Just not sure how it happened…

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