Q&A: Tol Ass Mo on race, reality TV and rap
When you see comedian Tol Ass Mo – born Mongezi Ngcobondwana – near you, watch your back for cameras.
The comedian, who grew up playing pranks on his parents, is now doing the same to unsuspecting people on Jo’burg’s streets and campuses for his latest show, You Got Got.
Ngcobondwana has become the man to avoid. His celebrity peers have their guard up when they are in his presence. But it’s that jitteriness in the eyes of his peers that he thrives on for his latest show.
You Got Got, which premiered in August, is inspired by the United States prank show, Punk’d, and by pranks from South America and Europe posted on the internet.
Ngcobondwana has come into his own in the entertainment industry – he starred in a reality TV show with his wife, Mo Nale, he is You Got Got’s creative director, and has now turned his attention to his music career. He released his hip-hop single, Volume, in September on iTunes and next year he intends to release a full body of work. Here he speaks about his work.
How did the idea of You Got Got come about?
We watched some prank shows from all around the world and we decided to do social experiments where we use those same pranks on South Africans to see how they would react. Our show is a first of its kind, on this level, in South Africa. It’s a show that let’s South Africans laugh at themselves.
What do you enjoy the most about working on You Got Got?
The adrenalin rush we get from pranking people; when we are hiding and we got our cameras set up, waiting for our victim to come in and then, boom! we pounce on them. It’s the adrenalin rush of knowing that we are going to get this person.
What type of pranks do you pull on the show?
We have different pranks that we do. We do social experiments, scare pranks and big celebrity pranks.
Which has been your favourite celebrity prank so far?
The prank we pulled on radio presenter Azania Mosaka was funny. We had one of our outlaws braai outside her nail salon in Parkhurst. The smoke entered her salon while the clients were getting their nails done and she just went crazy.
We also pranked TV presenter Bonang Matheba at the MTV Africa Music awards while she was doing a live reading on MTV. Our team went into the teleprompter room and we played around with the script. She is such a professional. She read our script with a straight face. That was the first prank we did on live television – and I didn’t just prank Bonang, but Africa.
How do you come up with content for You Got Got?
I am the creative director of the show, which means I am the one who comes up with the pranks. I work with my outlaws.
We often sit around a table and each outlaw says which prank they would like to pull. The outlaws handle pranks that are aimed at ordinary people and I handle the celebrity pranks because I need to make sure that our plans are kept as a secret from those around the celebrities.
Do you think you have mastered the art of playing pranks?
I am a master of disguise. I am not cheesy like Leon Schuster. I have always said that he should hang his shirt and retire. We are sick and tired and bored of his cheesy pranks.
You Got Got is very current and relevant and we do social experiments that work with people. We don’t do those Leon Schuster borderline racial jokes, which I find to be extremely boring.
What are your thoughts on racial jokes?
They are boring. We are over it. I don’t even do black people, white people jokes. Let’s talk with progressive thinking. Don’t do a prank where you are going to dress up as an old black guy and go run into a golf course just to see how white people react. Those kinds of pranks show how much of a racist country we still live in.
Have any of the victims turned violent?
Yes, they have. We have run, we have been choked, punched and threatened. We try to avoid those situations but that’s what makes our jobs exciting. You need to have a very thick skin to do this job. South Africans are not violent people. Yes, we get violent when we don’t get what we want, for example with service delivery grievances, but we are laid-back people. We are also conservative because the media wants us to be conservative. They censor what we say.
Tell us a bit about your team of pranksters.
They are young and fresh. I handpicked my team. There is something special about each of them. They are a team of comedians and actors.
You recently released a hip-hop song. Are you a rapper?
I am a hype man.
Are you rapping sincerely or are you spoofing the hip-hop culture?
I am an artist and I make high-end hip-hop music, but I also diss people in my music. I will not remove the comedy element. I can’t remove the fact that I am a comedian. Even when I am having a normal conversation, that side of me just pops up. I have a light-hearted approach to things.
How has your life changed since you appeared on the Vuzu reality show, Mo Love?
People now think they know my life. Strangers will walk up to me and ask how my kids are doing.
Would you do another season of Mo Love?
Yes, I would. We took a break from shooting the show because my wife and I wanted to give our youngest child time to grow, away from the cameras.
Would you consider acting in a sitcom?
I love South African sitcoms but I would never act in a South African sitcom because I am not an actor. I have turned down a lot of sitcoms.
I often help with the creative elements of the sitcoms, like writing for the shows such as the City Ses’la brand.
If you weren’t doing comedy, what else would you be doing?
I would still be working at a call centre.
Watch You Got Got on MTV (DStv channel 130) on Mondays at 9.35pm and on MTV Base (DStv channel 322) on Fridays at 4.30pm