03.08.17 by Aneeqah Samsodien
We met up with comedian Yaaseen Barnes at Burger King where we were invited to eat free food and sample their new burger. We chat about his love of comedy and how dropping his final exams to take the stage was the best decision he ever made.
Most people don’t realise that comedians are not funny all the time and actually have normal conversations. We uncover the everyday Yaaseen Barnes that is the guy with ambition, positivity and eagerness to accept and offer support to everything local. Having only been in the industry for about four years, Barnes is rubbing shoulders with big guns like Marc Lottering, Joey Rasdien and Riaad Moosa to name a few. He also worked on a video with Derick Watts and The Sunday Blues.
He dropped out of university twice, never completing his degree; his idea of studying meant being able to produce something tangible or to create content. He worked for Live4Ever Productions, a videography company specialising in weddings, where he got to see his creative side while shooting and editing videos.
“Cape Town’s wedding industry knows what they want. For the next five years, people are still going to listen to ‘A moment like this’ when they walk in”.
He went back to university after a year at aged 25 and left because everyone else was young and an ‘asshole’.
In 2013, Yaaseen was doing a learnership through Sanlam (“Yes, the umbrella one”) where he worked and studied for a year. This was the time when things kicked off with comedy; he did his first stand up show at the Funny Fest and won as Laugh Master. Something seemed off; he grated through Excel spreadsheets during the day and stood on a stage at night, alongside some of the biggest names in the industry. As a result, on the eve of writing his final exams, Yaaseen made the decision to put off his qualification when he was asked to do Comedy Central.
“You put the energy out there and it’s the same with happiness. Maybe that’s the outlook that comedy’s given me. I’ve gotten so many opportunities, and I write off anything that’s bad vibes. If you learn from it, then it can’t be bad and that’s my theory”.
Yaaseen creates different content for each social media platform like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. He also writes content for other comedians and shows, also dabbling in voice-overs. Known as the King of dad-jokes, his career took off almost immediately thanks to the major support from family and friends.
You call yourself an introvert. How did you manage to get up on a stage and perform?
The thing is, being on stage is the most introverted thing you can do. The light is so bright, the room is so dark, and you talk to yourself. A lot of the comedians are complete weirdos. You must be some kind of messed up to do this sort of thing.
Where does the funny come from?
I was never the funny guy in class, I was the background guy. I’d do the last joke. They’d call kak jokes ‘a Yaaseen’. At the time I thought it was a bad thing but now I’m like yo, it’s a thing. I tell dad jokes, my dad is bot. My mom’s an english teacher and I think I get the jokes from her. My dad could’ve probably been a comedian; I look at the world that they come from and they were raised in a different way. Their worlds didn’t go there.
‘I was always known as Fuad’s son, and now he is Yaaseen’s father. He still can’t wrap his head around it’
It’s so weird when he sees me performing because his mind can’t fathom that this is my job. He didn’t come see me for the first year I did comedy as he thought it was a hobby. When he eventually came, it was a good night, everything went well and he congratulated me. When I hit TV, that was the game changer.
What happens when Yaaseen Barnes becomes a dad; what happens to the dad jokes?
Then they become qualified.
In comedy, do you ever feel discriminated against?
Mega. Comedy can be done in so many different ways. I do jokes; I don’t do muslim jokes. Not coloured jokes, I just do jokes that I enjoy. I want to spread wisdom in the sense where you’re going to spread comedy and change stereotypes. I want to change the way people view muslims. There were many times where I’d perform and I’m the first muslim they’ve met. There are many places you can take comedy for the first time; it’s not about not doing muslim jokes, but creating a thought that all of us can connect to. A joke that’s not about Islam, not about being coloured, not about being South African, just a joke. And when you see the whole room laugh at that, that’s the moment that is the best.
We come from a culture where people like to hate. It’s a simple thing; appreciation. When someone laughs, they’re not thinking about anything other than the joke. It’s like you’re giving them a holiday from everything like the tax, the money, the fees. They’re only focusing on this thing that I just said. And that is a gift like no other. Ya. I’m responsible for the happiness that you are feeling right now.
I did the Blacks Only comedy show the first week in the fast and no one knew who I was. About 4000 people and they owe me nothing to laugh so when they do, I realise that this is why I do it. Roasting of everyone is at a high now. I’m not about that; I get if you don’t like my work. There’s a lot of people that don’t find me funny and I’m fine; I pay bills with my funny.
How is your presence influenced when the crowd doesn’t take well to the comedians on stage before you?
Comedians love to talk about comedy, it’s our thing. So after shows, we sit for hours and talk. When you see someone struggle, you go ‘I’m gonna save comedy, this show is my show and I’m gonna save it’. Then you go up and sometimes, you are the one to save the show. Confidence is all about believing your lies, that’s the way I see it. That’s why comedy works, because you tell yourself you can do it. We host shows at the Observatory Armchair theatre every Wednesday, where we kick new material and first timers. You see guys go up for the first time and be amazing; they also go up and die in front of all their friends, it’s a beautiful sight. You see them in the purest, rawest, and ugliest form. Sometimes guys say racist or sexist things or they do things that’s not right. If I hear you say anything like that, get off my stage; we don’t allow it. We sort of monitor the material, but also monitor the way people do comedy.
How do you as a comedian, distinguish between those lines?
You keep yourself active with what the world looks like; that’s where social media helps me. All those things that were funny in the 90’s, is not a thing anymore. Like the series Will and Grace, was fun at the time; you watch it now but gay people live amongst us and it’s fine. They’re just normal people. You learn that you must keep up with the times. That’s why it’s good to be on stage just learning whatsup. We’ve seen crowds call people out; other times, the crowds eat it up.
It seems like interacting and using social media proves to be a key player in attracting new clients for Yaaseen. He was scouted on Twitter for a few ads and landed up in a health insurance ad for Get Savvy.
“There’s a lot of shit things happening, but you go, my life is so happy cos I get to do the one thing that I love and I get to support the people, and the people that support me, is the best feeling; my family is proud of me. I have no reason to be sad. Look at where we are; a Thursday afternoon, these people that like me, they give me the nice things, I’m here lamming it out, my wife is opposite, I’m going to fetch her after work. I genuinely am living my best life” – Yaaseen Barnes
We heard that you want to create movies. How true is this?
Yes! But it’s going to be stupid movies; nothing will happen in this movie. South Africa is in a great space where we are able to make content. Americans make stupid movies all the time, why don’t we make South African stuff? It’s not about race or politics or anything, just that I thought of this stupid thing, lets film it. I visited Zimbabwe and in the time I was there, I only heard one Rihanna song, no other foreign music. Is that not what we should be having? Lets make supporting locals happen.
He has a show called The Weekly Noise with Yaaseen Barnes that is posted weekly every Thursday. You can subscribe to his Youtube channel to keep track of the latest shows as he features different comedians all the time.
Follow Yaaseen on the following social media platforms for more wit, fun and laughter: