Professor Pumla Gqola calls her “brilliant” and Marianne Thamm says she’s “the best thing to happen to SA comedy”. Lesego Tlhabi has elicited such praise through her wide-ranging work. Gaining prominence through her political satirist creation, Coconut Kelz, the television scriptwriter, producer, comedian, occasional DJ and all-round entertainer and content creator cannot be easily boxed. “I have the kind of brain that takes interest in so many different things within the creative space,” she says.
She completed a BA honours in theatre at Brunel in the UK, an intensive TV writing course at Columbia University and a copywriting course with Vega. Tlhabi understands it takes more than a “go for it” attitude to succeed. She attributes her formal training, especially with Vega, to her winning a Bronze Loerie.
“It’s a wonderful thing to be the producer of my career, because of what I have studied and the work experience I have,” she says. Her rising profile has allowed her to work with the people she admires, including Donavan Goliath for her first stand-up show at the Goliath Comedy Club. Moreover, having her own special show on BET Africa has been a highlight “because it took two years from the first meeting to [appear on] TV”.
Despite her popularity with slots on prominent platforms as eNCA and Radio 702, among others, Tlhabi has had to deal with “hurtful and sometimes violent and threatening comments” that made her want to give up. She has not allowed this to get her down however, because most people she meets have “nothing but positive comments”, and the “block” button has helped. Besides, she has a lot on her plate, including adding “published author” to her already impressive CV. Her satirical book (authored by “Coconut Kelz”) with Jonathan Ball Publishers is coming out in September, and she is brainstorming and writing a Kelz series.
While she can’t reveal the titles, she is clear about the topics that she will not satirise, including murder, rape and abuse. She wishes to eliminate toxic masculinity, bridge racial divides, work to ensure that black lives matter, that the media does not protect whiteness, and for women and the LGBTQIA+ community to feel safe; to this end she uses her humour, political commentary and intellect to make people laugh and think. With all the problems we face as a country, Tlhabi and “Coconut Kelz” make us feel better, joyful and more hopeful.