It’s a rainy Sunday afternoon in the city of gold. Robby Collins – a close friend and Pharrell-hat-wearing comedian – is waiting at Pata Pata, a lovely African cuisine restaurant in the Maboneng Precinct. He’s smiling and we sit down for a drink and a little chat. We put our friendship and nostalgia talks to the side and get straight down to business.
Collins, 27-years-old, is a writer, comedian and actor who moved from Durban to Johannesburg in 2010. “The industry in Durban for music, comedy or anything artistic is really slow, so Joburg was the best move. I started coming to Joburg to perform, then I started making a name for myself so I had to move in order for me to progress as a comedian,” he says.
Joburg is one of the main cities in SA where an art like comedy can be turned into a formidable career. Since Collins moved here, he has gained momentum and grown tremendously in the comedy scene. “I think you can always do more. But it definitely has progressed,” he says about his career.
Top achievement? “Last year I was nominated for an Emmy Award for writing Late Night News with Loyiso Gola.” This was mind-blowing, but at the same time not really that surprising, because this talented comedian actually works hard. He was also able to do his first one-man show, which has had him touring SA since last year. Bare in mind that in comedy, a one-man show is a big deal. The likes of Trevor Noah, Tumi Morake, Loyiso Gola, are examples of what a one-man show does for a comedian’s career.With that being said, Robbie believes, “ With art you can never get comfortable. I’m making moves, but I need to think about my next move.”
As the coffee sets in and the weather gets worse, he gets comfortable and warms up, describing how he started his acting career. He laughs and it’s hard not to laugh along. “I literally got into acting because my sister used to do it, and I realised that at school if you were doing drama, you weren’t in class most of the time… Rehearsals got in the way of going to class, and I was like this is a cool way to stay out of class.” The drama classes he did helped carve his acting, and gave birth to the art of comedy that he fell in love with.
We carry on to touch on the comedy scene in SA and the growth, “I think it is growing, it is growing tremendously, especially with the success of Loyiso Gola and Trevor Noah. Now a lot of people want to do it.” Collins uses hip-hop as an example and says, “You know how it happens in hip hop when a guy becomes popular. Like when AKA does well, now a bunch of guys think, ‘I can also rap’. But they don’t realise before AKA was a success there was a struggle”. A lot of people see the success of an artist but never truly understand that the artist had to go through years of growth in order to be who they are today. “With comedy there is a lot of funny guys, but then again there are guys who are doing it because it is popular now,” says Collins.
Robby handles most of management, but he has a booking agent and a producer who works for his one-man show. Things are going well – he’s been opening for Trevor Noah for four years and for two years was nominated for Comedy Choice Awards. Then there are the corporate gigs, which pay but aren’t always easy. “The corporate world still has too much control over entertainment. It’s cool for money but for artist integrity, you find yourself tap dancing a lot,” he says. Sometimes we sell our souls to corporate companies and end up losing the fundamental reason of why we do what we do.
Moving on to Collins’s one-man show, the tour started in Grahamstown and is off to Cape Town, P.E, Durban, then Johannesburg. The show is called That Bushman Is Crazy. “It’s just a compilation of my material I have been doing over the years, and new stuff that I’m doing now,” he says.
What to expect from the show? Jokes, story telling, and a whole lot of fun in the name of comedy. “Pure honesty, the thing about all my material is that it is all honesty, nothing is fake. Everything that I speak about happened in my life.” He goes on to say, “I think comedy works better when the encounters have actually happened. It’s a lot easier.”
The official tour dates will be released in July and more information about the show will be released around that time.
Collins has big plans, from writing for shows to directing his first feature film. He has dreams of performing in the USA too since the States is like the home of comedy. “I think that every comedian wants to perform in the US and I’m just one of them.” Being approved by guys like Loyiso Gola and Trevor Noah, clearly Mr Collins is on the right track.
Follow Robby on Twitter @RobbyCollins_
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