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Mark Banks on @etvSA's #ILoveSouthAfrica: Banking on Laughs

e.tv’s I Love South Africa is a hit – and that’s |partly thanks to comedian Mark Banks, writes Buhle Mbonambi

It's not often that I watch a variety show and immediately fall in love with it. And e.tv’s I Love South Africa is that show.

Presented by Masechaba Lekalake, I Love South Africa sees celebrities team up with comedians Mark Banks and Tats Nkonzo, facing off to find out which team knows the most about South Africa. From general knowledge questions to song lyrics and spelling words in all 11 official languages, the show tests celebrity guests and viewers. 

Adapted from The Netherlands, more than 30 countries have their own versions. It’s therefore no surprise that our local version is such a success, not only because of the combined wits of Banks  and Nkonzo, but because it also makes you feel patriotic and embarrassed when you find out you don’t really know a lot about your country. 
I spoke to Banks about the show, which celebrities left an impression, and his future TV plans. 

What about the show prevented you from saying no to it?
I love that it has such a wide audience appeal. It’s an authentic show and I like that it has a live TV-show feel. It could easily work as a live stage show and go on a nationwide tour with ordinary South Africans. It’s a nation-building show, instilling pride in our country, even with its problems. 
Was it difficult working with different celebrities almost daily?
Every day is different on the show and that’s why it works, which adds to the spontaneity of it. It’s really unscripted. Only Masechaba – who is great, I must say – has a script, but she also rarely follows it. What happens, happens. The celebrities add a different vibe to the show. 
Speaking of celebrities, do they make or break the show?
I think they do. It’s that element of surprise each time we see them while shooting, because we hardly ever know who’ll be on the show and on our team a few minutes before we shoot.
Who is the one famous |person whose company you enjoyed on the show?
The maddest one was actor Joe Mafela and also Owen Sejake (actor). They were great fun and the audience loved them. I loved seeing that.
And the one who didn’t impress?
Ah, I don’t think there was one. Or maybe they were too boring to leave an impression (laughs). In all seriousness, everyone on the show has a great time, a ball! You know how in comedy shows there are bloopers? Well, a part of the show is one blooper reel! 
You and Tats have this friendly war going on – what’s it like to work with him?
That boy is fantastic! I’ve known him and have been following his career for a while. It’s great to see him become a success. He doesn’t try hard to be funny. Plus, he’s naughty and he’s talented.
The I Love My Country format is very popular– what makes ours better than the rest?
It’s a mix of everything. From general knowledge to songs, expressions, music and dance – it’s the best things about the country. It’s a melting pot of South African culture mixed to serve up one amazing show. It’s also funny because you get to see just how little we know about South Africa, or that we can’t spell in other languages. It’s about seeing South Africa in a positive light and what I like most is that it appeals to everybody, and that’s a very rare occurrence for a local TV show that the whole family can watch together and enjoy.
So, as a comedian, what are your thoughts on a late-night show?
We need to have one already. |I want to be on a late-night TV show. The thing with South Africa, though, is that we need to laugh at ourselves. Everyone is too careful and too politically correct. We need to throw that out the window and have fun with the issues we have. 
Is there a plan for one? 
Well, there’s one that we are developing. I can’t say any more. Let’s talk in November.
What do you love about South Africa?
South Africa has come so far. Every day is different. We are such a unique country and we have the power to change the country ourselves. Like every country, we have problems, but we do have it good. I wish we’d laugh more – and that’s what I’m trying to do by being on the show.

Catch Banks on I Love South Africa, Saturdays at 6.05pm on e.tv.

This article was published in the Sunday Tribune's SMtv magazine on Sunday, 29 June 2014

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