I’m talking to Warren Robertson on Zoom and it’s a rather windy day down in the Cape Winelands, so it’s like the wind is trying to join our Zoom chat. You’re wondering why he doesn’t go inside? Well he’s outside, taking a break from the Love Island SA (affectionately known as LISA) team hub where he spends the majority of his waking hours these days, watching endless footage of the Islanders and coming up with witty comments that will later play out on screens nationwide as viewers tune in to see what their favourite couples have been up to that day.
Yes, Warren Robertson (in case you hadn’t guessed) is THE voice of Love Island SA … that irreverent hum in the background that says all those things that we’re thinking. He pokes fun at the boys, the girls, the show itself … you name it … nothing is off limits! If it’s there, it’s fair game. He admits there might sometimes be things that he’s tempted to say but knows would be a step too far, but being the gifted comedian that he is, he knows exactly what to dish up and what the portion sizes should be.
Warren originally auditioned for the Love Island role back in October 2020, and after not hearing anything for a few months, thought nothing of it, assuming the gig had gone to someone else. But in January, he got the big news that the job was his. And then things kicked off pretty fast as the production began in February and he’s been working non-stop on the show ever since. It airs 6 nights a week, with Sunday nights seeing the screening of the extremely popular ‘Unseen Bits’ episode. There are literally hours and hours of footage that need to be sifted through, edited and then narrated with just the right amount of sass to ensure that fans get their anticipated daily dose of LISA. This is not for the faint-hearted and not a job to be taken lightly.
But once Warren heard he’d got the job he immediately started doing his research. He watched footage of the various other Love Island series to get some insight into what it was all about. He identifies with Ian Sterling, the iconic presenter of the original UK series and most definitely the one that every Love Island fan is going to compare anyone who follows in his wake to. Anyone who doesn’t live up to expectations is mercilessly lambasted and Warren feels extremely lucky in that he’s had it a lot easier than many others who’ve come before him. We agree that his particular style of humour definitely fits the Love Island brand.
Warren launched his stand-up comedy career in 2006 and hasn’t looked back since. He started out at the Comedy Underground in Melville. In 2008 and 2009 he found himself touring the UK, winning various comedy competitions and also performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He returned to SA in 2010 and in 2011 was nominated as the Breakthrough Comedian of the Year at the Comic’s Choice Awards. Although he didn’t win the award, the nomination itself is something he’s extremely proud of as these nominations are made by fellow comedians, and the recognition received by one’s peers is something to be truly valued.
As it turns out, his fellow comedians hold him in rather high regard, as he returned to the Comic’s Choice Awards in 2016 and 2107 as the show’s head writer. We discuss at length what this entails: it seems that being the head writer involves writing short comedy sketches that are performed as interludes during the Awards ceremony. These sketches are obviously intended to be funny … but not necessarily to the entire audience, only to the actual comedians in the audience! So basically, Warren says, once he saw that the first 6 rows were laughing, he knew that he’d achieved what he’d been tasked to do! I told him that he definitely had, as I’d attended one of those shows and hadn’t had a cooking clue what was going on! So … definite #Goals!
Comedy is an artform. It’s not just getting up on a stage and making people laugh at silly jokes. It’s about timing, reading an audience, assessing the mood of a room, knowing when the time is right to write about certain topics and subject matter. Warren tells me that when he was first getting into stand-up, he attended a comedy show with some friends and drunkenly heckled the comedian. Surprisingly, that comedian asked his friends to bring him back the following night, which they did! The comedian in question was John Vlismas, and a firm friendship formed between the two. Warren speaks fondly of John, saying that he has always been a huge support to him in his career and that he owes so much to him.
Warren’s first one-man-show was ‘Spamily’ in 2012, about someone who starts receiving a regular family newsletter from the USA. Then in 2015 came ‘The Great Explorer’, which was a comedy show for the whole family about exploration and world history: “funny and educational”.
Warren’s latest show in 2018 was ‘D(e)ad Inside’. He toured SA with it and had a sellout run in London. This show is all about family and relationships and was written during a time in his life when quite a lot was going on: his son was born, his father passed away, and he then got divorced!
Inevitably the conversation circles back to Love Island SA and we talk about how South African fans and their engagement with the show has evolved from those first episodes back in February. Comments have moved on from those that used to focus on production or technical issues. Those appeared briefly in the initial, early stages of the series. But they’re a thing of the past now, and we chat about how much we enjoy seeing the many, many comments about the Islanders themselves: the favourites and the villains; who said what to whom; who did what with whom!! It’s a lot of fun on the surface, but in the end, everyone wants to see their top two find love (and let’s not forget … a million bucks!). We also talk about how dedicated true fans are to the Love Island format and how upset people get when they feel that this SA show isn’t looking like they think it should when compared to what they’re used to seeing in overseas seasons. But as Warren correctly points out, people forget that Casa Amor (that so many fans keep asking about), only made its appearance on Season 3 of the original UK season. And when people were unhappy about new Islanders being shown a couple of days before they arrived at the villa, insisting that they should only be shown immediately before they get there, they needed to remember that this is being filmed in the safety of a Covid protected bubble – delays needed to occur before our new Bombshells actually arrived in the villa, although viewers were getting a heads up that they were being introduced. Warren says he fully understands though that fans are absolutely loyal to a brand that they love and only want to see the best from every season of the show.
We discuss the hurdles that have been overcome every single day, creating this production during Covid, and Warren reiterates his utmost admiration for the entire crew involved in Love Island South Africa in creating the show and managing to get the necessary protocols right all the time. It’s no easy feat!
We’re getting to the end of our chat, and I ask Warren, “What’s your WHY?” He tells me without hesitation that it’s most definitely his 4-year-old son, who makes him laugh every day! Perhaps we have a new stand-up comedian waiting in the wings?
As for what’s next for Warren Robertson, he’s not actually sure. There’s talk of a TV production being made from his last stand-up show, but nothing concrete yet, and other than that he’s going to wrap things up on Love Island SA and head back home. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that Warren’s voice will resonate in our heads for a very long time, but one thing that has stayed me since talking to him and something that I know is one of his biggest assets, over and above his obvious talent for making people laugh, is his unassuming humility and appreciation for everything that he has. I couldn’t help thinking of that quote from Thomas Jefferson: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” I think that applies to Warren Robertson, who rather than talking about the effort he puts in, and the talents that he nurtures, prefers to draw attention and credit to those around him. Make no mistake, this is a man who’s doing all his own voiceovers. No lip-synching here!