CCN host Seneliso 'Sne' Dladla brings you news that did NOT happen
Words: Dylan Muhlenberg | Photographs: Nick Gordon
Award-winning comedian Seneliso ‘Sne’ Dladla hosts Comedy Central’s CCN (Comedy Central News), a five-series-old satirical news show produced by the Emmy-nominated team behind ZANews’ Puppet Nation.
TwoU visited Sne on set at Both Worlds Studios on the edge of the Bokaap, where he was busy filming S1E4 of his 30-minute show. Donald Trump, Obama, the Clintons and other famous faces watch Sne try on the different Superbalist-sponsored outfits and have makeup applied to his rubber face, which is not unlike those of the puppets he shares a backstage area with.
Today Sne’s wearing smart shoes and trousers because, well, he likes to dress smartly, but come December he says you’ll probably find him barefoot and in boxer shorts underneath the newsroom desk. The spotlight isn’t for sissies. The clapperboard shuts, and Sne, reading from a teleprompter, introduces the show:
“Hello hi, sanibonani, I’m Sne Dladla and you’re watching Comedy Central News, for the news that did NOT happen, but really should have. We’ll be taking you through the week’s news – with a twist. You see, we dub the politicians and stars to say the things we want them to. For example, right now, I think what most people in the country want to hear is this.”
Cut to a video of Zuma arriving at the White House.
“I hear you, South Africa. You want me to go? Okay. Goodbye, then. Anyway, I think these people are looking for a president.”
Back to Sne…
“Ah, wouldn’t that be nice?”
“Coming up in this episode, I rant about paying tax, Allister Coetzee reveals his dream Springbok squad, and South Africa’s first latex comedy superstar, Chester Missing, joins us to try and unravel real news from real bullshit. So let’s get going…”
After the show Sne explains how he started out working as a puppeteer on ZANews’ Puppet Nation, and became so good at imitating each character’s voice that he then became one of the voice artists, and today, at just 26-years-old, is the star of his very own show.
“I’m a standup comedian before anything else, and have been doing this for four years now. I’m fortunate to work with Rob Van Vuuren and Nick Rabinowitz, my mentors, who have helped me reach the level of a professional performer faster. Most comics don’t get the same chances, gigs, criticism and experience that I’ve had.”
After leaving KZN to study at Rhodes, Sne attended the Grahamstown Festival with members of his improv comedy class. It was here that Rob Van Vuuren first pulled him up on stage.
“Luckily I didn’t bomb. Five minutes is very, very long. The worst is that first joke.”
With standup you’re essentially telling the audience that you think you’re funny, and so when people come to watch you they expect that. If you fail, people won’t say that your material isn’t funny, they’ll say you’re not funny, which is the same as saying that you’re not good at your job.
“It’s not even like premature ejaculation, because with that you get to ejaculate, which feels nice, this is being caught with your pants down, in winter, after bragging to everyone that you’re a porn star.”
In fact, Sne has become rather good at his job. He kind of had to.
“Obviously coming from an African family, anything to do with the arts is a terrible idea. It’s not considered a real job. Luckily my parents are the opposite of that stereotype and were quite supportive.”
As far as heroes go, Sne’s father tops that list – he went from herd boy to med student to doctor and now manages a hospital. There’s also Trevor Noah, whose international success on The Daily Show has shown Sne how far he could possibly take this.
“That’s exciting! It’s also stressful though because we’re still fresh and finding our feet, and there’s always going to be that comparison.”
The humour business is no laughing matter, and Sne feels that the secret to his and CCN’s success lies in not trying to appeal to everyone.
“As much as we’d like to be, we realise that we’re not always going to be everyone’s cup of tea. That’s a hard thing to swallow. But comedy isn’t just about laughing, and at the end of the day, you need to learn something, help process things and deal with subjects that you wouldn’t be able to discuss on the regular.”
Which is why Sne believes that there should be no 'holy cows', that everything and everyone is fair game, and that the best way to tackle serious topics is via humour.
“Abuse is not funny, but if you find an angle around the topic of abuse, where we’re not laughing at someone who got beat up, but we’re laughing at how a guy thinks he’s masculine doing something like that, a story told through a clever scene, then there’s no topic that can’t be discussed. If you look at most comedy it’s actually quite tragic. There’s a lot of sadness.”
Sne and CCN have nine more shows to impress the suits and get those ratings, which will determine if there’ll be a second season.
“Even if we end up as one-hit wonders, as long as we make some people go ‘Wow, now that was a show!’ then I’m happy. Pure Monate is the benchmark. That’s where all the comics exploded. David Kau, Kagiso Lediga, David Kibuuka…”
And if things don’t go according to plan, well, Sne will probably be all right. Along with hosting duties at CCN, Sne’s a comedian, voiceover artist and actor, all crafts he plans to keep improving on at and exploring new territory in. There’s also his roles and responsibilities on ZANews’ Puppet Nation, a part in District 6 – Kanala, and Sne’s busy writing a fifteen-minute score for a choreographed dance piece he’s doing with his girlfriend.
That’s some work ethic, but what about the role of teacher – could Sne impart some of his knowledge so that we’re able to be funnier and tell better jokes?
“Be genuine, that’s number one, be real. It’s really funny when you’re at your most honest. The other one is to be wild. Stupid stuff isn’t always stupid. Weird is good.”
* Mondays 9pm Comedy Central News channel 122, central Africa time, more information check out @ComedyCentralAF or @Snecomedy and #CCNews.