Bongani Ndlovu, Showbiz Correspondent
Comedian Ntando Van Moyo says in private he is shy; his mother gives him tips for his cringe stand-up comedy and he still harbours the ambition to be the president of Zimbabwe one day.
This week on Tuesday, Van Moyo celebrated his 35th birthday and looked back at a life that is interwoven with his career.
Born Ntandoyenkosi Moyo at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo, Van Moyo is the founder and director of Umahlekisa Comedy Club, based in Bulawayo, which celebrated eight years of existence.
A fully baptised Seventh Day Adventist member, Van Moyo learnt at Solusi Primary School. In the year 2000 he was at Sizane High and did his A-Level at Luveve High School, while he was living in Cowdray Park. During that time, he was a Junior Councillor.
He did law at Unisa, but could not finish his degree because of the economic challenges that Zimbabwe went through in 2006 to 2008. He at one time said he started selling tampons and sanitary pads for about two years.
After watching a lot of stand-up comedy, he then started his own company in 2013.
Comedians that have graced the Umahlekisa stage include Carl Joshua Ncube, Clive Chigubhu, Edgar Langeveldt, the Bustop Tv duo of Maggie and Gonyeti, Nomsa D, Long John, Mandla Da Comedian, Doc Vikela, Cde Fatso, Q Dube, Simba the Comic King, Michael K, Comic Pastor, MaForty, Nceku and Babongile Sikhonjwa.
A father of two, Van Moyo spoke to Saturday Leisure on his life and what makes him tick.
The Cowdray Park suburb resident said he prefers spending time alone or with close friends and family.
“Contrary to what people think about us as entertainers, I want my own space to drink by myself. Or with one or two close friends. I love soccer, I support Highlanders and Arsenal. I like community development, politics and these are the things that I’m passionate about,” said Van Moyo.
He added that one day he wants to run for president.
“I don’t like backstabbers, pretentious and manipulative people. My biggest fear is seeing us fail as a nation on the things that we are trying to achieve.
“As you know I have ambitions to be the president of this country and I still want to be there one day,” said Van Moyo.
The love of his life are his children whom he thinks do not find him funny.
“My kids enjoy my profession. It gives them a social standing. They always celebrate me being on TV or in the newspaper. The funny thing is that they never ask me to tell them jokes. Maybe it’s because I’m not funny at all,” he said, adding that they are the reason he works hard.
“Being a parent in Zimbabwe is a tough thing, the biggest fear for my kids is there comes a time when I can’t work. Just like in Covid-19 last year and this one, we couldn’t work and fend for our families. I fear a time that probably I’ll run out of creativity and my children will starve.”
His family is his everything and he draws inspiration from his mother Siphiwe Khumalo.
In 2016, Van Moyo’s mother was part of his one man show at Rainbow Hotel, where he dished out some of the crassest jokes, that left everyone in the audience cringing.
What people did not know was that his mother had watched the whole set along with the most cringe worthy content and actually gave him tips on some of his jokes.
“I remember the show when my mother was in the audience. She already knew what I was going to say because she watched me rehearsing.
She was actually giving me pointers, asking me whether people would like what I was saying and what type of audience I was targeting,” said Van Moyo.
He said his mother was his number one supporter.
“She is quite a supportive person, because when I started this comedy thing, she was the number one supporter. She raised me as a single mother. We have watched comedy specials together at home, she will even send me links when she sees things online,” said Van Moyo.
It is hard not to talk to Van Moyo without him mentioning his platform, Umahlekisa Comedy Club and this time it was not an exception.
He said they had grown as a platform for comics and have seen people like Chik Aljoy and Long John who have been doing wonders regionally and internationally.
“The growth that has been there in the eight years. The foundation that was created to build the comedy industry as well as future opportunities that are emerging.
“I came up with Umahlekisa because there was no space for comedians to specifically nurture themselves and grow and interact and be recognised as entertainers as other artistes,” said Van Moyo.
“The highlights of Umahlekisa have been to churn out comedians who have gone to make it abroad, the likes of Long John, Chik Aljoy, Keith Nkosi among others. Also having most if not all Zimbabwean comedians gracing and going through the Umahlekisa stable one way or the other.”
Van Moyo said he once felt the need to fold up Umahlekisa when they were not getting the numbers.
“The low lights were times when we thought that things weren’t going for us. There were times that audiences were low, the content from comics was also poor. We felt that things weren’t moving. I’m glad that I didn’t give up and kept moving,” said Van Moyo
“We have been inspired to keep on going seeing what we have achieved and the respect and buy-in from artistes not just within the comedy sphere. What we have learnt from the bad times that we had, is that we should keep calm. Even if things look bleak just stick to the plan, learn from your errors and take criticism, and don’t be defensive and develop a thick skin.”
“My biggest lesson is to be humble to understand that not everyone around you looks after your interest, the world doesn’t owe you anything. You need to eke out your own space. As local artistes we complain a lot instead of putting more energy on coming up with the solution. If there is a problem, we should be part of the solution.”