From cracking bad jokes to landing a spot at the Mother City Comedy Festival, Altaaf Sayed is fast making a name for himself in Cape Town’s comedy scene.
Altaaf grew up in Penlyn Estate with his two older sisters and moved to Rylands in 2008. He attended Habibia Primary School and SACS, then studied business at UCT before moving to Johannesburg in 2010.
When he returned to Cape Town, he started his career as a stand-up comedian at the Armchair Theatre in Observatory during open-mic evenings. In 2018, he was chosen by the South African Savanna Comics’ Choice Awards to take part in the newcomers’ showcase performance at the Soweto Theatre in Johannesburg.
At the Armchair Theatre, he performed the opening act for other comedians including the Goliath Brothers and worked alongside Marc Lottering, whom he says he draws inspiration from.
Altaaf and some other comedians started their own gig at Trenchtown in Observatory on Wednesdays, and he also performs at the Cape Town Comedy Club, where he was promoted from open mic to support-act comedian.
He says the tough part of the job is you only know if the jokes are funny once you make them on stage.
“It’s been cool to learn about the industry. I went from five to 15 minutes on stage, which is scary, but you find your way eventually. People always ask me what do I do if the audience doesn’t laugh at my joke. The only thing you can do is continue although you are burning inside and just died on stage. Yes, your confidence takes a knock, and you feel insecure the next time you go on stage, but you learn from that. So next time you make it funnier or you change the punchline.”
Now, he will perform his first one-man show, Finding Archie, as part of the Mother City Comedy Festival at the Baxter Theatre next month, cracking jokes for an hour – a big change from his 15-minute slot at Trenchtown. Nik Rabinowitz, Kurt Langeveld, Stuart Taylor, Mel Jones and Dalin Oliver are some of the other comedians performing in the festival.
Altaaf’s show takes its name from his nickname and he tells how he got into comedy and his experiences in the industry.
He comes up with his jokes, he says, by bouncing ideas off other comedians.
“We laugh at each other’s jokes all the time. Sometimes I laugh at the same joke no matter how many times I’ve heard it. It is loads of fun. We draw inspiration from each other.”
Every three months, Altaaf prints flyers with jokes that he gives to the needy to sell. The flyers help them to buy food while giving him some exposure, he says.
“I don’t make anything off it. I just give them the flyers and they sell it for whatever they want, some even for R2.”
Altaaf says comedy isn’t all laughs – it can be a struggle sometimes to find new material and the money isn’t great, but Cape Town comedy fans have been very supportive.
“You have times when you struggle to come up with new jokes so either you need to find new inspiration, change your creative process, or work on your existing jokes and make them even funnier.”
Altaaf will be performing at the Baxter Theatre on Thursday February 27 at 7.15pm. Tickets are available on Webtickets. For more information, call Altaaf at 062 433 0733.