The comedian Mr Ntobeko Madlingozi (NM) and our editor Mr Siphiwe Mpye (SM) have been friends for over 25 years. They met for lunch in Johannesburg recently – following Madlingozi’s one-man show, SoberSex, in Cape Town – after not seeing each other for a few months. This is the first excerpt from their conversation, about sobriety, non-alcoholic beer, Nas, vaping, and faking it.
SM: So you only drink water now?
NM: Yeah. I don’t drink cool drink.
NM: Because I don’t want to drink cool drink. I enjoy water, or Beck’s or Bavaria (both non-alcoholic beer) once in a while.
SM: (laughs at the ‘absurdity’ of non-alcoholic beer) So, what is it, is it (about) the taste?
NM: (laughs) Yes, the taste (they both laugh)
SM: I always found that strange. I don’t understand, does it fool your mind into thinking that you are getting drunk?
NM: It’s a taste that I am comfortable with. The older I get, sweet things make my saliva very thick. I don’t like the aftertaste of sweet stuff. Also, when people are drinking, I don’t have to answer bullshit questions like ‘why don’t you drink anymore?’, I grab a Beck’s, turn the label towards me and I’m good.
“I don’t have to answer bullshit questions like ‘why don’t you drink anymore?’, I grab a Beck’s, turn the label towards me and I’m good.”
SM: So they just see a green bottle.
NM: Yeah, they just assume (drifts off).
SM: Why are people like that? You are doing a great thing, yintwentle you know (they both laugh), people don’t like to see a good thing (both laugh).
NM: “What happened?’, that’s their thing. Something terrible must have happened for Ntosh to stop drinking. You know, Bobby called me the other day, telling me he had spoken to you and you had told him that I hadn’t been drinking in a year. ‘Why?’ he says to me, ‘Why would you do that?’
NM: I was like, no Bobby, I started drinking with these guys in 1992. So 25 years is enough, man.
SM: Do you remember the first day we all drank together?
SM: It wasn’t that day ethafeni, was it?
NM: It was. When Mpumezi and I walked in (into the bottle store) because we were the biggest. (both laugh). Yeah, that day when we first tasted Guinness.
SM: Hayi maan, was it Guinness?
NM: Yes, it was
SM: I wouldn’t have liked Guinness
NM: That’s the thing, we never drank it. We bought two six packs of Amstel, a sick pack of Castle and a six pack of Guinness. We all took one sip and, nah, we left it, and finished the rest.
SM: That Guinness thing is weird, it’s so popular in Nigeria. That fascinates me.
NM: Guinness is nice.
SM: It’s nice?
NM: When I was giving up drinking, in the last few months, I was drinking that and Milk Stout (drifts off). You know, since I have been sober, I have no game (Madlingozi is famously single). When I was in Cape Town last week…(laughs and drifts off. It seems he had no game, even after a sold out show and standing ovation at his first One Man stand up comedy show).
“What happened?’, that’s their thing. Something terrible must have happened for Ntosh to stop drinking. I started drinking with these guys in 1992, so 25 years is enough.”
NM: I went to check out that apartment you sent me the link to. It’s a really nice part of Brixton, up the road from the SABC, two beds, two bathrooms. You can see Johannesburg. You see your bathroom floor?
NM: It’s like that all over
SM: Is it still available?
NM: That was a month ago, I don’t know.
(Takes out a clear plastic packet with a pipe and tobacco and starts playing with the package)
SM: When did you start smoking a pipe?
NM: I am trying to stop smoking (cigarettes).
SM: So there is scientific proof that smoking tobacco in a pipe, will help you stop smoking cigarettes?
SM: What kind of tobacco is that?
NM: I don’t know
SM: (smells it) smells like cherry
NM: I don’t know man
SM: Ayiyo BB?
NM: Hayi mfondini, iBest Blend?! (both laugh)
SM: But this is curious for me…
NM: Nicotine is the problem, when I am smoking this, it’s much better. It’s lighter, no nicotine (this is not true) and the tar is very low, like zero point something (this is debatable). (Looks at his cigarette pack) This one is 12 milligrams.
SM: How does it compare to vaping?
SM: There’s a place just up the road here, a vaping store, it’s called LungCandy! What are they trying to say…that vaping is sweet, it’s good for your lungs?
NM: They are telling us bullshit. That thing (vaping) is smoking
SM: Exactly, it’s not an alternative, it’s just a different form of smoking.
NM: Damn, how long have you not had cigarettes? Five years?
SM: Longer than that man, I lost count.
I am just talking about the comfort of a savings and doing what I want, when I want to. At least that. I mean, you come along, you come right, and then, these knocks – which is life – but damn, how many can you withstand? They are constantly there. They won’t stop, even when you do have that money. I can’t remember when last I said I was happy ‘this whole year’.
NM: And you are looking good, ingathi uneMillions, uyz’bo?
NM: Fake it until you make it
SM: (laughs) Yho, kunini ndiyiFaker
NM: (laughs) Udikiwe ngoku?
NM: My cut-off date is 45
SM: Cut off date for what?
NM: For having money. If I don’t have money by 45…
SM: You are still setting those deadlines? I don’t know man…
NM: I am just talking about the comfort of a savings and doing what I want, when I want to. At least that. I mean, you come along, you come right, and then, these knocks – which is life – but damn, how many can you withstand? They are constantly there. They won’t stop, even when you do have that money. I can’t remember when last I said I was happy ‘this whole year’.
SM: And this year has flown by, it was just yesterday that people were triumphantly saying goodbye to a bad 2016…and now we are here.
NM: In terms of my work, I am happy, because I am doing lots of comedy and shooting stuff (movies and TV – Tyovityo, Bantu Hour), I am getting this web going…but I am the Nas of comedy.
SM: (laughs) So, how is one the Nas of comedy?
NM: A guy who does great work and doesn’t get recognised. Nas has never won anything, even that Illmatic album, that album was fucken fantastic, but no. The albums that won at the time were like, Snoop Dogg. And he (Nas) just keeps on going.
SM: So it’s just the fans that recognise Illmatic?
NM: Yeah. The industry has just not recognised that guy at all.
“(Nas is) A guy who does great work and doesn’t get recognised. Nas has never won anything, even that Illmatic album, that album was fucken fantastic, but no. The albums that won at the time were like, Snoop Dogg. And he (Nas) just keeps on going.”
SM: So why do you think it (the comedy industry) hasn’t recognised you?
NM: I think it’s because I don’t suck dick. I don’t suck dick at all, and you need to suck dick.
SM: Mhh, I think we have the same problem…
NM: I cannot suck dick, I cannot.
SM: I mean, literally and otherwise…(laughs)
NM: Well, that’s obvious (both laugh)…but eish, maybe you need to check, you never know, Ntosh may be different nowadays (both laugh).
SM: Well, there’s nothing wrong…
NM: None at all.
This conversation was originally published in the Mail & Guardian.
Mr Madlingozi’s one man show, SoberSex comes to Johannesburg on November 24. Tickets at Quicket.co.za. Follow @ntoshmadlingozi on social media for details.