When you think of larger than life personalities, Jason Goliath is definitely up there with the best.
Whether he is tickling the funny bone on stage at The Goliath Comedy Club, in front of the camera or behind a mike on the radio, his energy is infectious.
I recently caught up with Goliath for a Zoom chat to unpack “Black Tax” returning for a second season to BET Africa. True to form, he had Mzansi in stitches with his camp character, Antonio, in season one.
Of course viewers are champing at the bit to see him back on the small screen.
Before delving into his return to the TV space, I asked him about how he coped with the upsets brought on by Covid-19, which saw live performances ground to a halt for the better part of the last 18 months.
He said: “I think 2019 was tumultuous for artists because there was financial despair and already anybody in entertainment was under threat. Budgets were crazy. Corporates were crazy.
“So I feel like we went from bad to the absolute worst-case scenario, you know 2020 hits and, I must be honest, the first couple of months, I was making peace with the fact that at least I had the career.
“I got to do stand-up. I got to see audiences. In some way, my dreams came true but I felt for new comics because it wasn’t my first storm of this kind of in life, we just acted quickly.
“My rule to the team was to make the hard decisions as quickly as possible, which we did, and just keep it moving because wherever we are supposed to be, we are not going to get there if we stand still. And it’s been fantastic.
“I have learned new skill sets. I’ve become as savvy doing what we do digitally as I was live.”
On returning to the Safta award-winning comedy, he admitted: “It was great because I feel like you shoot in a bubble anyway. But now that bubble meant something.
“It kind of felt like escapism because you knew that everybody on set was safe and doing whatever they could do to be safe. And it gave you hope because we were going back.”
Goliath pointed out: “‘Black Tax’ was the first production that I went back to after all of this craziness.
“And the crazy thing about this was everything was the same.
“Season one was fun and it is always fun when you are working with people that are passion first, profit second. Those are my favourite people.
“It feels like the people casting said, we don’t want people here who are here for the money, we want people who are here for the craft and the passion.
“And that’s what it was. People were there to get the best out of it.
“Season two was very similar, it was like meeting old friends after a very long time and old friends, who like making nice things, and that’s what it was. The energy on set was great.”
As for his character, he admitted: “Firstly, it’s a sensitive topic to play a homosexual character if you are not homosexual.
“It’s a sensitive topic for me particularly because I realise that it is so easy to offend everybody at the moment and pushing the character too hard could read as offensive to those that have a struggle.
“And one of the things that I’m really conscious of is that it is so difficult to be other and therefore if you are playing other, you have got to be extremely sensitive, extremely respectful and also have fun with it because that is what it is all about.
“I think season one helped me brush off the nerves. Season two sees me a lot more comfortable in that flamboyant persona of what Antonio represents, but it is also his development within the organisation and then him starting to get a little bit comfortable and a little bit cocky and realising his own worth, to a degree, and he’s a stronger individual and a better representation of what that character would be in the context of the South African landscape.”
As for sharing the spotlight with Jo-Anne Reyneke, he couldn’t stop singing the praises of his co-star enough.
“You know, weirdly, I met Jo-Anne for the first time during the reading. I think I was pegged for the role by the time we got to the shortlist for her role and I read with all the possibles and there was something about Jo-Anne even in the reading,” he said.
“I wasn’t responsible for casting in any way, shape or form. I sat in those castings and I was reading the character with all of the possibles and she was my favourite.
“Listen, Jo-Anne is a problem in the sense that once you see her talent, you are immediately intimidated, and once you see how effortless it is, you are immediately motivated to go ’I’m going to learn from this person’, and she is so generous.
“From a friendship point of view, we were friends from the end of our first day of shooting and that’s why that onscreen relationship reads so well because there is a lot of truth to sincere emotions.”
Like the viewers, Goliath finds the writing exceptional.
He said: “As South Africans, at this point we understand what black tax is. But I don’t think we understand how intelligent black tax is, and how it finds ways to be paid in environments because you are never free of this thing.
“You can move out of the kasi but black tax is black tax. You are going to pay the thing anyway.
“The writers on this are so smart in finding the depth because I know we all watched at the end of season one, so you go, okay, we know the story now, you’ve told us the story, you told us what black tax is, but what now because you guys are not Seinfeld you see, you didn’t come to do a show about nothing, you’ve come on to do a show about a specific thing; and how are you now going to elaborate, add depth and still keep it authentically engaging.
“And I think my favourite part is educating. And it’s also done in such a joyous, smart way.”
Interestingly, in July Goliath celebrated 10 years in comedy.
That said, he also ticked many other boxes as he has spread his wings as an actor, radio personality as well as a talk show host on TV.
At the moment, Goliath as a collective with Kate, Nicholas, Donovan and him, are mapping out plans to return to the stage and live audiences, while also pursuing their individual successes, too.
As for a movie being on his vision board for 2022, he said: “I think definitely. I’ve done cameos in a couple of movies and low-budget leads a few years ago as part of the experimentation.
“At the moment, I have an opportunity on my desk from a South African producer/writer and I think what excites me about the opportunity is I’m trying to be in projects that are not allowing their creativity to be restricted by what’s possible with the rand.
He added: “ It takes very special stories and producers to create stories that will be able to travel and live.
“If you look at what Netflix just did with ‘Squid Games’, I think that’s the perfect example of stuff that I want to be involved in. We used to joke when you watch the stuff with subtitles, that is the bottom of the barrel.
“There ‘s an opportunity now globally, it’s time to change the narrative that only America makes and tells great stories.
“Africa has great stories. It’s time for our stories to be told But we need to put passion behind it and not be skimping on pre and post production, which is something I accuse our industry of all time.”
“Black Tax” season 2 airs on BET Africa (DSTv channel 129) on Saturdays at 7pm. It is also available on Showmax.