Trevor Gumbi has become a formidable force in the South African comedy landscape. His rise was often times punctuated by controversies in his personal life, his rambunctious style of comedy and struggle with narcotics. But it seems there’s a new Trevor Gumbi on the horizon and this version of him is more courageous, playful and merely seeks to edify his existence through a more honest approach to comedy. We caught up with him recently at the Goliath Comedy club where he was hosting a roast battle with four up and coming comedians. The evening was fragrant with laughter, soaring revelations and some serious burns.
What excites you about the roast culture?
“I think what excited me most about the roast part of comedy is the one part that we as Africans grew up with. Every black child knows what it is to “ukugwara” or “ukulanzana”. It’s a culture we grew up in and it was all just fun and games. There was so much joy in trying to create a good roast. It’s something that stays with us and we sometimes even see it in older people too. We enjoy teasing each other and having fun, and sometimes people take it a little too seriously and a fight would break out.”
The #WalkItOff Campaign, is spreading such a positive message through comedy. What does this mean to you, as someone that’s been quite expressive about their past?
“People that have followed me or witnessed my career know that I’m someone that’s quite vocal about my mistakes as much as I celebrate all my happy moments – I’ve always believed in being real. I’ve found this way of expressing myself quite cathartic and I find it quite therapeutic in vocalizing the things that have hurt me or harmed me.”
“That’s part of the reason I chose to produce Sober Companion, the TV series that aired on SABC 3, which depicted my struggle with drug addiction and the truth about how I was molested as a child. I cast my son Jamie, to portray the younger me that was molested by the neighbor. It was quite emotionally challenging writing that role for him, because it forced me re-live it but to finally confront that memory honestly. There were so many tears, so many group hugs. I was fine until I wasn’t fine, until I was fine again. Having made peace with that memory has allowed me to fully understand the power of walking it off. It’s about preserving your peace.”
We approached this evening with some trepidation because we just never know what you going to say. This “near hesitation” is something people speak about, where do you think that comes from?
“I think that’s all in how the media chose to portray me. I did a number cellular network TV commercial but it wasn’t until I hosted the celebrity and entertainment news show, Headlines, alongside Kuli Roberts. The whole purpose of the show was to put them in awkward positions for comedic relief. It wasn’t until these celebrities would literally run away from our camera’s and we’d be forced to run for them in an effort to get our story. Then, and out of nowhere, “Trevor is an idiot” and “Trevor is rude” articles were increasing in the tabloids.”
“In retrospect, I wish that show wasn’t the launching pad into the industry because it exposed everyone to the most extreme version of myself that was required for a show of that nature. But it helped me learn the importance of growth and the art of learning from your mistakes.”
The controversial persona you undertook a few years ago is in complete contrast of the person you are today.What are some of the truths you’d like to share about who Trevor Gumbi is in 2018?
“That’s a tricky question to answer because I don’t regret any of the decision I made because ultimately, they’ve all shaped the person I am today. In every phase of my life, I’ve always been the person I wanted to be. Meaning I own every decisio I make, own up to any mistake because I understand consequence. Every experience, good or bad, has shaped me, made me stronger and I know I’ve helped a lot of people too. I guess maybe the one truth I’d like people to know is my passion about educating communities about sexual misconduct, especially toward young boys. It’s a conversation people don’t have and it’s only in my openness about it in schools, that these children would speak up about it.”
“Growing up a Zulu man in Durban, I’ve come to learn that there are a number of taboo conversations that the Zulu culture prefers to ignore all in an effort to preserve the perceived idea of what it means to be a man. which is quite unfortunate because the perception is evident in many cultures which results in many men not vocalizing their emotions and continue to bottle things up which in most cases, leads to a violent eruption. Which further continues this cycle of masculinity.”
Thank you so much for inviting us into the sacred parts of your life. Your courage will definitely help a number of people.
“I feel it a personal responsibility to speak openly about the areas of life. I’m currently working on non-profit organisation called “Trevor Gumbi’s You Are Not Alone Foundation”, which aims to mentor young boys and give them invaluable lessons on being a man through a camp that will help them re-write all negative ideas they’ve been taught about being a “real man”. Ultimately, it’s about encouraging these boys in leading emotionally healthy lives.”
“Okay, honesty hour: we approached the Trevor Gumbi interview with a near shuddering trepidation, which as we now know, was terribly misguided. He has a refined sense of self, that’s especially visible when he gushes about how his beautiful children have given him the courage to interrogate his troubled childhood honestly.”
It seems the true magic of the human experience lies in embracing the union between who you were with who you are and learning how to celebrate your own unique beauty and truth for yourself. We are thrilled to see Trevor Gumbi’s next chapter unfold in the shape of his new truth, radiating warmth and belly aching laughter.