Arts + Culture

The Ted Talk Questionnaire: Zimbabwean Comedian Carl Ncube is So Nervous It's Shocking

Zimbabwean comedian Carl Ncube shares how much TED means to him and how nervous he is to present at the TEDGlobal 2017 Conference.

This August, Arusha, Tanzania will be the setting of TEDGlobal 2017 Conference where 21 innovators will come to spread worthy ideas. 10 are from Africa. As part of our focus on African Futures, this month we wrote to this year’s African Fellows to ask them questions about themselves and their work. TED recently announced that applications to be a 2018 TED Fellow are now open.

Find out more information about the program and how to apply, here.

Our ninth interview is with  Zimbabwean comedian Carl Ncube. He talks to us about how much TED means to him and about what he learnt being on the opposite side of the screen.

How did you first find out you were selected?

So I got this amazing email that said you have been selected. I didn’t even read the rest because the SUBJECT said TED Fellows. I think until now I still haven’t read the whole email.

What was your reaction when you got the word?

I literally stopped everything I was doing and sat in a corner because I knew life was about to change—I would never ever be the same. That’s such a sobering feeling considering I was hungover from the night out before.

Was it difficult coming up with the concept for your talk/project?

That is one of the hardest things is to think about. Every amazing TED talk that has inspired me to break down barriers in my life and my career, incisive presentations that have inspired me before and now I have to come up with a single idea to share with the world in 4 minutes? What pressure!

At what point did you finally say: "yes—I feel good about what I am about to present?"

I will have to get back to you about that. I think even as a performer I have never felt ready or felt good about what I am going to present. I always feel nervous but the nice thing about being nervous is that you outperform yourself. Like a gazelle being chased by a cheetah the gazelle has no idea how fast it can run until that moment.

What did you learn about yourself through the process?

I learnt to appreciate all the things I have done that I have played down in an effort to be humble. I haven’t taken the time to celebrate myself and now this process has made me look back at some amazing highlights in my life.

Are you nervous about your presentation?

I am so nervous its shocking. Every time I think about that RED DOT and that big TED SIGN behind me that’s pressure.

Any particular things you are doing by way of preparation?

I just finished a 30 day stint working on my cookbook in a luxury tented safari in a beautiful place called Mana Pools with a company called African Bush Safaris. I find cooking therapeutic and the preparation helps me focus on things I find difficult as a comedian.

What do you anticipate the world's response will be?

I hope the WORLD will finally know my story and laugh at my jokes

What made you passionate about your subject?

Without saying much my passion is based on the fact that my topic is that it is a bad thing that has had a grip on the people of Zimbabwe for the longest time. That in itself will be a surprise when you see how I have packaged it.

To the next generation of intellectuals who are reading about you and inspired by you right now—what would you say?

I would quote one of my favourite professors called Prof MK Asante who said “don’t let school get in the way of your education.” For me it has empowered me to learn so many amazing things informally and to go after my dreams using my plan and my execution.

Personally, what does it mean to you to be selected as a TED fellow?


Where do you hope to go to from here?

I hope to continue seeing more of the world, sharing my thoughts and showing people that Zimbabwe has so many amazing things, most important of which are its people.


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