Last to laugh laughs longest

Reality show starring some of SA’s best comedians promises to be a cracker

Last to laugh laughs longest

Seven comedians, a musician, two actors and a social media creator walk into a house … the joke is for them not to laugh —the polar opposite of their day jobs. The punchline is that the ultimate victor earns a cash prize to donate to a charity of their choice.

That’s the broad premise of  brand-new reality series Last One Laughing, which will debut on Prime Video on Friday, 16 February. Cleverly, the series’ acronym is LOL — ha, ha!

It sounds easy but, apparently, trying not to laugh is harder than winning a staring contest with a mirror, especially when among the 11 contestants are some of South Africa’s lollest people. 

Internationally revered comedian and broadcaster Trevor Noah is the host and the show features comedians Celeste Ntuli, Jason Goliath, Tumi Morake, Robby Collins, Glen Biderman-Pam and Mojak Lehoko; singer Moonchild Sanelly; actors Nomzamo Mbatha and Thando Thabethe plus social media creator Lasizwe Dambuza.

So, this is roughly how it works — one comedian makes a pun, another pulls out a clever one-liner and the social media star drops a meme-worthy line. The atmosphere is tense as they all try to keep straight faces. But the jokes are so hilarious and unexpected that even the most stoic among them can’t help but crack a smile and burst into laughter. 

And that’s when they realise the real challenge isn’t in making each other laugh, without smiling themselves, but in trying not to laugh at all. Because if you do, you’d literally be killing yourself laughing. 

But when it comes to laughter, resistance is futile — especially when you’ve got a house full of comedic geniuses.

In a challenge lasting six hours, they’re pitted against each other in a house, reminiscent of Big Brother, except that it is funny ha-ha, not funny peculiar, in the jokers’ den.

Laughter and smiles are strictly forbidden, yet they must use every comedic trick in the book to crack each other up and secure eliminations.

The media had the opportunity to meet some of the cast members and watch the first two episodes of the unscripted series at The Galleria in Sandton, Johannesburg, this week. 

It was a blue-carpet event, with blue mimosas and blue snacks making the rounds, while comedians, actors and social media personalities came dressed up to support their peers. 

Participant Goliath says this is the first time he has not been absolutely in charge of a show. 

“In every show I have done, I have been able to control the performance and the audience’s reactions, and you kind of know what people are going to expect,” he tells me. 

“This is one of those shows where, even if I explained it to you for hours and hours, you would still not be ready for the twists and turns. 

“As a comedian, it is like waking up in your worst nightmare and then you realise that the cameras are rolling and you have to stay in the game and commit.” 

Goliath says the worst thing for any comedian is people not finding them funny and the show hits that nerve directly (or is it indirectly?). 

“It does not matter how big the comedian you love is, they are so insecure about being funny. The show forced us to dig to a place where none of us have ever been before.”

Morake describes being a part of the show as “holding on to a secret and the secret is killing you — now imagine this secret is a laugh, that’s what this was like”.  

She says she learnt a lot about herself as a comedian and the places she reaches from. She also mentions that the pandemic took her away from her industry friends so it was refreshing to share a space with them again. 

“As the industry is waking up again, we have all been chasing our own tails, so it was really nice to be in a space where you know you are going to be with them for a long period of time and that was enough for me.”

Just after 7pm, we were escorted to our seats to watch the show. The ambiance was full of love, reminding me of Morake’s earlier comment that a lot of the participants had not seen each other post-Covid, making it even more special.  

The place was roaring as the audience members failed to contain their laughter throughout the two episodes. I won’t spoil it for you by trying to retell any of the jokes. Just take my word for it that it was truly hilarious.

Afterwards, one of the audience members summed it up perfectly: “This is South African comedy at its best. This is South African entertainment at its best. We have the ability to laugh through anything and it is people like these guys who get us through. Top-notch entertainment.”

Last One Laughing will air on Prime Video on 16 February.

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