Lindy Johnson is hilarious. Want proof? She’s been handpicked by Trevor Noah for Trevor Noah Presents NationWild, now first and only on Showmax.
She’s been nominated as Best Newcomer at the Comics’ Choice Awards this month. She won the Savanna ‘Show Us Your Apples’ Open Mic 2017 showdown. And she’s only been doing stand-up for two years.
Lindy comes from Charleston Hill, a largely Muslim suburb in Paarl in the Cape Winelands. “I really enjoyed growing up in Paarl. There was a lot of good food; as you can see,” she says, gesturing at her body. “I know I make a lot of negative jokes, but Paarl is amazing.”
As you’ll see in Trevor Noah Presents NationWild, she really does make a lot of jokes about Paarl, one of South Africa’s oldest towns. “Paarl is very Afrikaans and still very divided,” she says. “There’s a river that runs through it, so there’s white people on the one side and coloured people on the other… Paarl is the kind of town white people move to when they miss apartheid – and can’t afford Australia.”
She finds dating challenging anywhere, though. “When men meet a funny woman, they always feel they need to be as funny or funnier. Which isn’t true; you just need to be richer.”
She credits her father, who passed away when she was 12, with sparking her passion for comedy. “I used to watch a lot of comedy when I was younger. It started with Mr Bean and then my dad got me video-tapes for Eddie Murphy, Wanda Sykes and Monique,” she says. “It was very important for him that I saw women who looked like me doing comedy. I think that really laid the seed that I could do this as well.”
She has two older brothers, who’ve also contributed to her success. “I love them but they teased me a lot. They made me strong because it doesn’t matter whatever anyone else says, I can handle it now, because my brothers have said worse.”
But it was Twitter that gave her the confidence to try stand-up. “In high school I got Twitter and I started tweeting to like 50 followers. The next year I went to university and people would come up to me in public and say, ‘I really liked that joke.’ And I thought: ‘Maybe I am funny.’”
Her first gig was a competition she entered with her housemates. “They could all sing and play an instrument and I couldn’t do any of that but we said we’d enter as a house,” she says. “I had nothing to do so I said, ‘This is the time I do stand-up comedy; I might as well.’ I came second in the competition, which is fine because Beyonce also came second in her first competition.”
Being a coloured comedian in South Africa isn’t easy. Firstly, because people expect her to dance on to stage, something she doesn’t do. “Not because I don’t want to. I can’t. I literally have no rhythm. I love being coloured but I think that’s the worst part: you never know when the white genes will strike.”
Secondly, because it comes with a lot of responsibility. “Being a coloured female comedian, there’s a lot of pressure because I feel there’s a higher standard for me than other people, because I always have to represent people. It’s not something I’ve asked for but it is a responsibility that I take very seriously. There’s a very negative portrayal of coloured women in South Africa; a lot of comedians portray us as violent and angry and messy and I don’t want to do that… I don’t want to counter anything; I just want to show you this is what I’m like; there are so many different types of coloured women.”
Lindy’s biggest break so far was being handpicked by Trevor Noah for Trevor Noah Presents Nationwild, a 13-part comedy showcase now on Showmax. Each episode features a short introductory set by Trevor as the host, an interview with the featured comedian about their ladder to success, followed by that comedian’s set. “In each episode, we’re going to meet some of the brightest emerging comedians in Mzansi,” says Trevor.
Considering that Trevor’s already given fellow African comedians like David Kibuuka and Loyiso Madinga regular work on The Daily Show, anything’s possible for Lindy and the other stars of Trevor Noah presents NationWild, who include 2018 Comics’ Choice Next Level winner Phil de Lange and Best Newcomer winner Tsitsi Chiumya, as well as 2018 nominees Bongani Dube, Gilli Apter and Eric Jansen, 2017 Best Intermediate nominees Noko Moswete and Tshireletso ‘Mo’ Mothebe, and 2016 Comics’ Choice Breakthrough Comic Award winner Virgil Prins (aka Prins), not to forget rising stars Gavin Kelly, Keenan Cerff, Kraai Du Toit, and Mbu Msongwela.
“I genuinely can’t believe this is happening to me,” says Lindy. “It doesn’t happen like this for everyone. Not everyone can do exactly what they love and then find so much success in such a short period of time.”
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