Once a quiet, cartoon-obsessed kid from the Eastern Cape, this young comedian has today gained thousands of followers across multiple social media platforms. While comedy might seem like the thing he has nurtured right from the get-go, Okay Wasabi made it known that, long before he discovered his ability to make people laugh, he was already entertaining ‘crowds’ (the audience being his aunt and granny) with his epic dance skills. ‘I was a great dancer. I know we all used to dance for money from our relatives but for me, I considered it my calling,’ he shared, jokingly.
It was only in grade six, when he discovered his talent for making people laugh, that he decided to hang up his dancing shoes and pursue his passion: comedy. But it is not just passion that has him tickling funny bones; it’s genetics too. He openly credits his dad for being the funniest guy he ever knew and how he ultimately influenced his comedic style. ‘My dad used to make fun of people but in polite ways, in ways you would never get angry with him,’ he tells us. ‘I think I do that too, I make fun of people and they join in on the laughter.’ However, it’s not just his dad who passed down the funny gene. Okay Wasabi also credits his mom for influencing his animated ways of storytelling.
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While all the signs seeming to be pointing him in the direction of the entertainment industry, there were moments in his life he considered pursuing a career in chartered accounting or IT. ‘I once heard that they made a lot of money, like how all our parents forced us to take “pure maths” to “open doors’” for us.’ After careful consideration and the realisation that the office life wasn’t for him, George decided to stay on the creative path.
Instead of choosing the conventional method – performing stand-up gigs across the country – he used social media to his advantage by uploading short videos. This was a much better option for multiple reasons, one being that he actually has terrible stage fright. The alternative seemed to work as he soon became a household name in South Africa.
Known for making parodies of popular songs, his comedy is intimately tied to music. It’s even how he got his stage name. ‘I would mishear a lyric from a song and completely run with the idea of what that song was about,’ he says. And it’s exactly what happened while listening to the track ‘Hard Hustle’ featuring Lil Wayne who he thought rapped ‘Okay Wasabi’ when in fact the line is ‘Woah kimosabe…’
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The idea to merge music and comedy together was largely influenced by watching Saturday Night Live, as well as his childhood experiences. ‘As kids, most of us used to intentionally make remixes of songs,’ he explained. ‘I think I just took that concept two or ten steps forward, and it just happened to work.’ He also sites local success story Trevor Noah as one of someone who he looks up to.
‘I’ve probably walked on the same streets as he has and probably driven or caught a taxi on the same streets as he has. He’s really doing it, you know?’ It’s safe to say that Trevor Noah was a role model for Okay Wasabi’s career.
Today, in terms of career goals, Okay Wasabi simply wants to do this: Make a mark on South African history, uplift the local comedy industry and make this country proud by becoming an international success. And we’ve no oubt that’s exactly what he’ll do.
Words: Kayla Van Kerpel | Photography: IMimages.co.za