Simmi Areff is not the Muslim Marc Maron
But his podcast is pretty great anyway.
Every Monday for over half a year, Simmi Areff has put out his podcast, Lesser Known Somebodies. This might not seem like a big deal, but if you know South African comics, you’ll know that words like “consistency”, “follow-through” and “work-ethic” aren’t always in their vocabulary. Simmi isn’t like most South African comics though, as you’ll soon find out. Over the last 6-7 months, Simmi has developed an engaging interview style and has gotten to know a wide range of guests. One week you could be listening to a business advice from Jason Goliath, the next you could be finding out what it’s like to be the media man behind the Proteas with Altaaf Kazi. There’s even an episode with Orlando Jones which will make you go “I wish Orlando cared about my love life as much as he cares about Simmi’s.”
We slid in the Durban born comedian, prankster and podcaster’s DMs and had an informative chat about podcasting, radio and comedy in SA. Check out an edited version of our Facebook chat below. (Then go catch up on the podcast on iTunes or Soundcloud.)
DIY: What up Muslim Marc Maron?
Simmi: Lol, I wish I was that talented to be considered close to Marc Maron
So do I. But you’re the best we’ve got for now. What’s it like being the man behind Africa’s 8th best podcast?
Well. Good news: it’s rated 3rd in Africa for comedy. But it’s cool. The only reason I did it was because no radio station would take me. But it’s cool. Keeps me disciplined. I have to do it every week. Once a week. So I have to set up meetings and organize a guest.
Yeah, shit, you’ve been at it for 7 months now right?
Yeah. Maybe longer. I’m on episode 20 something. Close to 30. It’s cool cause I love my guests. Some have been hits. Others misses but that’s the whole learning curve
What’s your criteria for guests? Because you’ve had a dope variation, and at times it really does feel like these people are Lesser Known Somebodies, but then others it’s fucking Orlando Jones.
Yeah. I guess it’s a mismatched type of thing. My criteria is one question “Why is this person not getting enough credit?”… That’s basically it. But when I have an Anele or Orlando Jones it’s basically “Does this person have another side to them?”.
Cool, I like that. By the way, what’s it like to have Orlando Jones ask about your love life?
Funny as fuck. ‘Cause it caught me off guard and I was really shy. People don’t think I get shy but super personal stuff kills me. But Orlando is such an enigmatic hands on person… So he controls everything. But a nice human at the end of the day.
I really enjoyed that one. I also enjoy the ones that you do with your friends who are doing cool shit but aren’t necessarily people who are “known”. Which are your favourite types of guests?
The friends. Hands down. Your one is the template for what I want the podcast to be. Jan Bornman is another one. Osman Osman another. These people know me and we have a relationship more than just comedy. We hang out and that’s where the gold comes from. I like the guests that have something to show and I want to showcase the stuff cause I’m proud of it.
Jan’s one is one of my favourites. I’ve only interacted with the guy a bit on twitter but from your podcast I got a cool sense of him.
He’s literally one of the nicest human beings and so honest and naive. When he becomes big I’m gonna be so proud of him.
What was your motivation for starting the podcast? Obviously to put other people on, but also to put yourself on at the same time, right?
Yeah. I love radio and have worked at numerous radio stations. But they wouldn’t put me on. And they wanted me to like edit videos instead of speaking behind a mic. So after they said no I had to find a way to live this dream, or attempt it at least. So I’m here because no one wants to put me on. So yeah… Fuck radio stations, bra.
I’m with you there man. That shit is so vapid 90% of the time. I actually loved your conversation with Martin Evans about it. What do you hate about radio in SA at the moment?
They fucking play it safe all the time but want to act like they are cutting edge. They aren’t cutting edge. They just do the basics. Radio employs the most amount of mediocre individuals that meet the basic requirements. Like competence is the requisite and that’s it. And we applaud it. Well radio stations applaud it. I didn’t.
You’ve got your own medium now and you can do whatever the fuck you want with it. It just sucks having to build an audience from scratch though, when it’s built in with radio. How hard has it been building an audience for a podcast in South Africa? And what has your strategy been to grow it?
It’s hard. Like I have a small community. I can’t really put a number to it but each podcast has about 150 plus listens in its first week. It’s hard because promotion is only really on social media. And between friends and word of mouth. So it’s not easy. My strategy is to just launch it on all my social medias. I ask the guest to share it as well hoping their audience will also be attracted to it. And then at times I’m amazed at just the random amount of people who actually listen to podcasts in the country.
Do you see a new wave of South African podcasts coming out now, especially among the comedy scene? Or have other comedians not really caught on yet?
Na, I don’t see it happening. There are a few but that’s the stuff Cliff Central does. And I feel it changes. One year it’s one person, another year another person and I feel that they are lost among all the other stuff cliff central does. Comedians aren’t rich so they probably don’t have the equipment or the access to podcasts. I’m generalizing but hey, if it’s not true then there would a lot of comedic podcasts out in this country.
Well, Neil Green and I are chatting, but mics ain’t cheap. What setup are you working with?
It’s an H4n Zoom recorder. Costs about R2k maybe cheaper now. Then I bought two mics at R135 each. So my set up isn’t that expensive in terms of radio stuff.
Considering you’ve used it nearly 30 times, that makes it under R100 a recording…
Word bro. Nice perspective
You’re taking a sabbatical from comedy, why?
I feel this industry is toxic bro. Everyone speaks comedy all the time. I don’t get to experience enough or normal life when hanging with comedians. The conversations is always related to comedy. So I wanna take a step back. Work on me. Without the pressure that my industry is putting on me or a person in it.
I feel you. I thought it might be a bit of frustration with the audience. I know you’re often at odds with the SA comedy audience, well, at least from what I see on twitter.
Yeah they are still a growing and learning audience. I can’t blame them as much but I don’t put them on a pedestal like others do.
You definitely influenced me a bit with caring less about the audience and having fun regardless of if it’s clicking with them or not. It’s made getting up way less stressful ‘cause I know I’m gonna have fun either way.
At the end of the day I must have the most fun. Whether they like it or not. I must have fun
You met Dave Chappelle. For the people who haven’t heard your podcast and heard the story yet, tell us how that went…
Bra, it was amazing. He was at this after party in Montreal and he was with his crew. Finally got enough bravery to greet him and was like “Dave. I’m from Durban,”… Before I could say my name he gave me a hug and said “we can kick it.” I’ll never forget that moment.
Why the fuck were you in Montreal?
I went to the comedy festival. Wanted to see what it was about and if there is a place that is the Hajj of comedy. It’s that place. Holy pilgrimage vibes
And? What did you get from it?
That what we think comedy is here in this county is not really what it is there. It’s another world. We aren’t even close to it. We aren’t even on the same path as them. Would be dope to draw parallels but other than performing I didn’t really see any. They have another type of industry entirely
Are you looking to kick it overseas?
Yeah. This year. November most likely.
Oh shit, for how long? What’s the plan?
To get a visa and explore their industry and see how I can make it work for me. I’m not expecting to be a sensation but if I can make a few good contacts and get some gigs to show my talent, then I can make an impression every time I go there and then eventually just live there. John Oliver wasn’t great in Britain. Moved there and he is huge now. Same with Jim Jeffries.
Do you not think people will think you’re arrogant and selfish for these remarks? Does that matter? Cause your current fans might think “Fuck this guy, he doesn’t appreciate us.” I’ve seen that happen plenty.
I think people think I’m arrogant and selfish now. It’s weird in this industry, you always get branded as that when you don’t agree with the status quo. But it’s cool. It hasn’t concerned me in so long. Thick skin what-what.
Last question: Why do you still engage with trolls and shit talkers on Twitter? I’ve moved on to the quote-tweet-insult-block method and it’s brought so much peace to my life. Are you that bored?
Yes I am and to be honest: It’s funny to me. I enjoy the engagement. But to be entirely honest, I don’t respond to most of the stuff. Only the really stupid stuff cause I think that’s the beauty in it. To see someone’s stupid logic.
A thing of beauty is a joy forever. Thanks for your time, dude.
Na it’s a pleasure. Love you byeeeee.