Laughing with God
IT'S A different type of church setting.
The usual congregation is there but today the pastor is sitting with his fellow worshippers as comedian Tshepo Twala, also known as Ditsebe.com, takes centre stage on his latest comedy DVD.
He greets the pastor sitting in the front row with an opening shot to warm up the audience: "I like you wena bab' mfundisi you don't imitate abo TD Jakes but remain true to your own craft."
Ditsebe is a funnyman with a difference. While many comedians pepper their material with crass language and know no limits when it comes to their jokes - Ditsebe jokes for Jesus as he targets mostly Christian audiences with his stand-up skits.
To get the congregation fired up Ditsebe shares a story about when he was at a church conference and three pastors were ministering way over the heads of their audience.
All of them were concisely quoting their Bible verses but no one in the audience could understand their message as the learned pastors used bombastic words and phrases trying to impress their audiences, without realising they were losing them completely.
The congregation roars in laughter since they relate to Ditsebe's experience.
Ditsebe is a devoted Christian and one of the few working gospel comedians in Mzansi.
"It saddens me that as Christians we've come to put God in a box," he says
"People have made out God to be this serious old man, but here is this young man (as he refers to himself), who has an intimate relationship with the Lord and proclaims that there is a humorous side to this guy that you all didn't know about."
His stage name, Ditsebe, which is a SeSotho word for ears, describes Twala's small, perky ears.
"In the townships you are usually nicknamed by the way you look. Often this could cripple a person's ego, so when people teased me about my ears I decided to be very smart about it and embrace it," he says.
The 29-year-old from Vosloorus grew up in a very religious family.
"Church was very big in my family. I started going to Sunday school from a very young age with my mother. My family were dutiful church-goers on Sundays as well as some days during the week".
His comedic character growing up earned him nicknames such as malanzana , machanana or magwarana - which all mean joker.
"I was quite a good soccer player at school but then I broke my ankle, which ended my soccer dream. My mother was all spiritual about it when she claimed 'God doesn't want you to play soccer'," he chuckles.
Ditsebe joined the church choir and was asked to be the MC of a church event.
"My pastor was so impressed that he asked me to perform for four more consecutive weeks and since that experience this gospel comedian has never looked back."
Twala has been an MC for many gospel and corporate events. He presented the annual Crown Gospel Awards last year, as well as their nominees' event this year.