The feline’s eyes greet me before she does. They’re grey and cute and on a pair of socks. Nina Hastie (pictured) opens the gate of the office where we’re meeting and it feels like I’m walking into a job interview. The comedian who will perform in the 67 Minutes Of Laughter show, presented by Christian comedian, Napsta, at The Lyric Theatre tomorrow, is wearing a pink Polo shirt, grey high-waisted slacks and black heels.
Hastie always looks beautiful, but this morning, she’s dressed like she means business. She tells me after our interview, she’s meeting an SABC representative to talk about Bantu Hour, the sketch show she, Kagiso Lediga and other high-profile entertainers (which we’re not allowed to mention) have pitched to the national broadcaster.
But later, she also admits: “I dress like this,” she pauses, “in general, I look young. So when I was on stage I looked like an angry little girl who didn’t know things. When I dress like this, I look older and so, what I’m saying has more gravitas. So much goes into your comedy before anything even comes out of your mouth.”
She has a point. Although some of Hastie’s material can be gags-for-gags’ sake, her style is one that often pokes fun at social points like privilege – sometimes through self-deprecation. That can be misinterpreted by regular audience members, especially in a country where women who are coining it in stand-up comedy can be counted on one hand.
Luckily, Hastie still pushes the envelope on stage while she has other avenues to express her wit. One of those is through the writing she does for television and columns in print. Hastie’s agony aunt parody is popular and so is her satirical Operation: Find A White Guy.
As such, she has been nominated in the Comics’ Pen category at this year’s Comic’s Choice Awards which take place at Montecasino on August 15. She is up against Camilo Saloojee, Christopher Steenkamp, Rob van Vuuren and Lazola Gola.
“I was so surprised I literally burst into tears,” Hastie says about being nominated. “I was dumbfounded. I didn’t think anyone even read what I was writing.” Unable to resist a joke, she quips: “Also, I can’t spell, so.” But Nik Rabinowitz and the Pan MacMillan publishing house have spellcheck for that.
After opening for the last three one-man shows by Rabinowitz – whom Hastie describes as “a mentor to me” – he hooked her up with the publishers who wanted her to write a book.
“I wasn’t in the headspace to commit to a full book,” she says. At this point, I ask her if it’s fair to draw a few comparisons between her and Lena Dunham. She nods, but quickly mentions: “I started watching the first season of Girls (Dunham’s hit show), but for fear of being influenced, I stopped.”
She is unlikely to stop setting stages ablaze, though. Especially when it involves a good cause like the 67 Minutes Of Laughter. Hastie says Nelson Mandela was “a common hero and this show carries a common message”. This funnywoman’s message seems to be simple: evolution. It’s obvious Nina has risen to a higher plane, and it’s not just because of a change in dress sense. “It’s been a lovely journey where I’m enjoying carving out my craft,” she shares. “I’ve moved away from the risqué stuff and think I’ve found my voice, which is nice.”