by Thinus Ferreira
On Monday night DStv subscribers will be able to tune into the latest Comedy Central Roast, this time with Khanyi Mbau as the first black African woman to be roasted, with TVwithThinus that can reveal that behind-the-scenes one of the panellists arrived "horrendously" late and that nobody asked for any topics or parts of their personal lives to be off-limits - although the writing team did remove some jokes from the script themselves that went a bit too far.
The Comedy Central Roast of Khani Mbau, recorded last month inside the Teatro at Montecasino in Fourways in northern Johannesburg, will air on Comedy Central (DStv 122) on Monday night 8 August at 21:00, with the uncensored and uncut version which will be released on MultiChoice's Showmax video streaming service on 15 August.
The panellists giving Khanyi Mbau and each other a roasting are the controversial podcaster Sol Phenduka, actor Sello Make Ka Ncube, hip-hop artists Nada Nakai, comedian John Vlismas, actress Celeste Ntuli, radio presenter SelBeyonce Mkhize, broadcaster Tbo Touch, rapper YoungstaCPT and investigate journalist Devi Sankaree Govender, with Mpho Popps as the Roastmaster.
As to why Paramount Africa decided to bring back the Comedy Central Roast Africa for another edition in 2022, Dillon Khan, video president of Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, VIS and Creative Service Africa at Paramount Africa, tells TVwithThinus that after the Covid 19-pandemic "Mzansi needed to laugh".
"We know that the Roast is such a popular format and it was great timing to do the Roast to make everybody laugh again."
With some of the jokes and ribbing between the roasters that would definitely not make it to television today in the United States if done there with where audiences in that country are currently, TVwithThinus asked Dillon Khan about how Paramount Africa sees so-called "cancel culture".
"I think that what the Roast is, is an acceptable format in so far as being able to poke fun; being able to make jokes," he says.
"I think the format and context is so, so important. I think people understand the context of the Roast is really about roasting ones you love. It's never done from a mean place. It's never done with vitriol. It's always done with a view of celebrating people but in a fun and jovial way".
"There will always be a respect element that's attached to it. There are some jokes that were written into the scripts that were taken out because we felt that it went beyond a line," he reveals.
"So, I think that we want to push boundaries with the Roast."
"That's what the format is and that's why people take part in it and they put themselves forward - they go in fully eyes-open as to what the Roast is. It's not a brand-new format. People know what it is and they put themselves forward to do it in the spirit of knowing that it's about celebrating rather than coming from a mean place of pulling someone down."
"This year was one of our most diverse and inclusive panel make-ups. We have a wide group of people in the writing room, we had a lot of people giving input in the script to ensure that it was fit for purpose."
About what he's learnt from African audiences and their response to something like a Comedy Central Roast and how the African version has changed over the past couple of years, Dillon Khan says "it's about evolving the teams who work on it".
"The teams working on it behind-the-scenes - your writing team, the agency and creatives that we used to put the creative together, the tagline of 'Triggered? Good' came from the agency that we work with. The lead creator was female, the head strategist was female, so it's really good to try to have as many different voices and different people to work on a project because they will always safeguard any blindspots that you may have."
"If you just go with - for argument's sake - only a handful of men, or just a handful of men and women, do you have LGBTQ+ representation? D you have diversity in race baked into teams? You can try and safeguard yourself and ensure that you are true to as wide an audience as possible."
"Somewhere along the line there will be mistakes, and when you're pushing boundaries and you try and entertain especially in the comedy space, there will be mistakes," says Dillon Khan.
"I think being able to look at those and where you've misstepped and being able to put your hand up and say 'Mea culpa' and this was a mistake and we are rectifying it - nobody in this world has not made a mistake. If you take the approach of doing the groundwork beforehand, you minimise any blind spots."
Dillon Khan says what surprised him about the live event held and recorded at the Teatro was "that we were sold out a week in advance".
"That gave us an indication that people were very desperate for the format to come back - for a night out to enjoy themselves without how it was during Covid with wearing masks and one-and-a-half metres of distance. This was like the 'good old days' of being in the Teatro, people mingling, coming with their friends, dressing up and coming for a night out and being entertained with a premium level of comedy".
"I think this will be the most successful Comedy Central Roast that we've had on Comedy Central and Showmax - just seeing everybody so excited and staying until late."
"We started slightly late due to some technical issues, but when we did get going everyone stayed committed to the show all the way through to the end which was around one o'clock in the morning. The panellists kept the energy in the room all night long".
Dillon Khan reveals to TVwithThinus that neither Khanyi Mbau nor any of the panellists requested "outs" or any subjects about them or their personal lives being made off limits.
"Everybody was very open to the idea of being true to the Roast. Nobody came with 'can't talk about this, can't talk about that and you can't joke about this'. Everybody was super open to the Roast, there wasn't anyone holding back and that's good because you don't want anyone coming and saying here are 10 topics which are off limits."
"Then it's not a Roast, then it's something different. Nothing held the writing team back or was not true to the format."
"One person turned up horrendously late. Didn't get a chance to rehearse on the stage - but did an amazing job when we went live."