Joburg comedy: always on my toes

So, I was back at Kitchener’s Carvery Bar in Braamfontein for their weekly New Material Night gig on Tuesday.

A really good night of comedy and the biggest crowd that I’ve seen in that intimate space – at least since I started playing there earlier this year.

Before the show, it was really phenomenal bumping into the award-winning friends I mentioned in the most recent post. Virgil Prins (Comic’s Choice Award Breakthrough winner) was one of the first comics to arrive. It’s been so phenomenal watching him mould his own voice as a comedian throughout the past few years. He was always one of the sharpest guys in the scintillating first incarnation of Nat Caf (improv troupe) back in Grahamstown.

Virgil Prins is enjoying a rising comedy trajectory. Pic: showme.co.za
Virgil Prins is enjoying a rising comedy trajectory. Pic: showme.co.za

I have a lotta love for the man. Brilliant guy.

As the years progressed and as Prins channeled his efforts in stand-up, his style has zoned in on a really fresh and detailed observational comedy brand. A few months ago, I stood impressed at the Bassline in Newtown as he took the crowd through his entertaining take on the weirdness of a phrase such as bringing home the bacon, among other hilarious things.

On Tuesday, we caught up for a few minutes and the other comics on the night’s line-up eventually trickled in to the venue. Thabiso Mhlongo (winner: Comedy Central Africa Grab The Mic competition) was the next of the golden gents to arrive. I’ve got to know him this year and he’s a genuinely great guy. Insanely funny and one of my favourite bits of his was also delivered at the same Bassline gig mentioned earlier. It was cool getting his take on his progress to the final and his calm mindstate that was crucial in his performance when the stakes were highest.

Ebenhaezer Dibakwane (Comic’s Choice Newcomer award) arrived, even though he wasn’t playing that night and we duly exchanged bear hugs and some warm words. He’s honestly one of my favourite humans: warm, engaging and unpredictable on stage.

Ebhenhaezer Dibakwane is one of my favourite new acts on the scene. Pic: Comedians-South-Africa.co.za
Ebhenhaezer Dibakwane is one of my favourite new acts on the scene. Pic: Comedians-South-Africa.co.za

I found out I was third on the line-up. Fate was kind to me as the presence of a Belgian audience member meant I could try out one of the newest bits in my arsenal: a Dutch-speaking bit that reflects on my years as a call centre agent at a tech firm. The set was immensely positive. That bit is taking shape and I’ll be cleaning up the ending as I look to consolidate it.

I was also fortunate to meet and chat with Loyiso Gola – probably the first time being on the same line-up since he was the host at my very first comedy open spot at the now non-existent Cool Runnings in Melville. That was in 2009.

Wow.

I’ve spoken at length about leaving the stand-up scene and pursuing a degree (see this entire blog history) in the years since. Seeing Gola in action this week one of those really instructive and insightful comedy moments.

Jetsetting Loyiso Gola recently completed a run at the Edinburgh Fringe. Pic: Artslink.co.za
Jetsetting Loyiso Gola recently completed a run at the Edinburgh Fringe. Pic: Artslink.co.za

Being one of the elder statesman (so to speak) of South African comedy, his flair and subtlety meant he was just hitting the right notes and connecting with the audience most of the time. He’s incredibly economical with his words, without compromising the set-ups of his material. Watching him work and thinking about his career trajectory reminded me of the very high standards some of the more established names have set.

Joburg probably has the highest concentration of professional (full time) comics, which means a lot of the line-ups at established gigs will have a certain benchmark of what constitutes a ‘good’ performance. I’ve felt that from the very first time I stepped back on stage in my home city all those months ago.

Gola’s set weaved through the very personal (his new chosen mode of transport) to the historical and political. Chatting to him one-on-one after his set, I was reminded of the endless crafting he and other comics undertake to ensure they keep demanding more of themselves.

Mojak Lehoko, Robby Collins, Dillan Oliphant, Yaaseen Barnes, Tats Nkonzo, Loyiso Madinga. These are just a few of so many names picking away at their craft and finding more in themselves. I see the level of craftsmanship in the potency of their material, the strength of audience rapport and their consistency.

And I’m moved. These guys and so many more remind me that there’s always another level.

And I’ll work hard to transcend it.

Stay tuned…

  • Tyson
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