Prank calling random people as a young boy, with the blessing of his late grandmother, Dollie, acted as one of the catalysts for Jaryd Pillays’ decision to join the comedy circuit.
Jaryd, 22, said he had always been “very good” at copying accents and that his late grandmother was the first person he tried his comedic talents on.
“She acted as my audience and was a woman who loved to laugh and smile. Sometimes we would even prank call her friends or sift through the phone book looking for numbers. We had so much fun doing it,” he fondly recalls.
Jaryd, who recently performed at Nomad Bistro in the CBD, said he has lived in Durbanville since he was nine years old.
He attended Fairmont High School (FHS) and chose to do speech and drama as an extra-mural activity. “We put on a lot of school productions written by our drama teacher and I learned a lot,” he said.
Another catalyst for his chosen path, he says, wryly, is when he entered Mr and Mrs FHS at the age of 17.
“I staged what can only be described as a Bollywood parody with a cardboard cut out of a tree, and, with the help of twin sisters dressed in traditional Indian wear, my routine came to life. Everybody loved it and I ended up winning the talent contest, much to my surprise,” he said.
After matric, Jaryd decided to study Screen and Stage acting at AFDA in Observatory in 2014 and graduated in 2016.
“I learned so much about timing, crowd control and character development among other things. I was able to hone my skills; it was an excellent course and instead of writing an exam I would perform in a production. If anything, AFDA showed me how to stage a good production.”
Jaryd said his one-man show, Life of Pillay, came together organically over the last several years.
“The entire show delves into my identity crisis which sees me grapple with being a fifth generation Indian in South Africa. It’s a journey of discovery. It all came together joke by joke, line by line, until I found the segue to pull it all together,” he said.
On what audiences can look forward to, he said: “Lots of laughs and insight into the way my generation perceives the world. The show is essentially my perspective on life, family and society,” he said.
During April, he performed at Roxy All Day (RAD) in Woodstock; The Mash Tun Za in Woodstock and the Armchair Theatre in Observatory.
The up-and-coming comedian, with his signature “luscious” locks, described Life of Pillay as being therapeutic as well as cathartic, with a touch of social commentary weaved in.
His most notable gigs are performing at the Rocking the Daisies Music Festival in 2014 and 2016; playing to a 3 000-odd crowd at the Soweto Theatre in 2015 and being chosen as a runner-up in Comedy Central’s Grab the Mic competition in 2016.
Jaryd said it’s his dream to be able to do comedy full-time. “It is very hard to do and only achievable by building an audience base. As an actor, I would also like to see myself perform in more productions, which is very hard right now because I am at the start of my career. Essentially I just want to be successful doing what I love,” he said.
On his advice to aspiring comedians, he said: “If there is anything else you want to do, do that because comedy is really hard as you are constantly looking inward to improve yourself and it’s not an easy journey as there will be many times when you are riddled with self-doubt.
“But if it’s what you love doing, head to the Armchair Theatre on a Wednesday night and try out some new material,” he said.
On his role models, he said: “There are so many South Africans pushing comedy in the industry, at the moment, and I look up to those guys especially Loyiso Gola and Trevor Noah.”
Those heading to the Grahamstown National Arts Festival this year can catch Life of Pillay at the Bowling Club between Thursday June 28 and Tuesday July 3.
To check out more of his gig dates, email firstname.lastname@example.org; visit his Facebook page or follow him on Instagram@thegreatraaj