On a cool Thursday evening Bloemfontein Comedy Club hosted CamCom for his one man stand-up show Not A Vloek at the lovely restaurant 59 Plenty.
The sparsely populated eatery could have knitted itself into a coherent unit were it not for the opening – albeit deliberate – incoherence of the host Boeta. The routine, in which he pretended to be speaking to the audience but not really, left many in a daze. Some of the embarrassment that coloured the chuckles that punctuated the routine was surely reserved for the man on stage.
And this was no fluke. It was a perfect introduction to how the night would unfold.
A slow, painful attempt at comedy – at best. In reality there was very little attempt at comedy, but as has become the norm in the South African comedy fraternity, there was a lot of insults hurled about to people who’ve done nothing but exist.
First on the line-up on Boeta’s shooting range was a group that hardly ever comes up first, if they ever do: people living with disabilities. The “joke”: a blind cockeyed girl. We were warned that this is no fluke; that nothing that comes out of the comedian’s mouth is not well considered. But still one could sense that in the deep recesses of our hope in humanity, we wished that there was more to the joke than the fact that a blind girl is cockeyed. But that’s all that was on offer.
And there was plenty more where that came from. A nice set up about mistaken gender/sexuality identity, which could’ve offered some insights into life in a fluid society, off ramped into a reincarnation of the Group Areas Act about how gay people should be barred from clubs on Saturdays. The homophobic rant predictably metamorphosed into a slut-shaming tirade waxing (un)lyrically on the implausibility of female virgins in Bloemfontein. Then, right on cue, it got rapey: the only decent conversation a man can have with a woman is a kiss.
“I will repeat the joke because I know you didn’t get it.” Boeta utters the truest words, seeing little to no reaction to his diatribe. Of course nobody got the joke, precisely because there was none. For hope springs eternal, we banked on the main act bringing some.
We were in for a bitter disappointment. Much like the host before him, CamCom came unto stage without much ado. And just as little jokes. The few he had were bad regurgitations of stale jokes anyone who’s spent more than two minutes on YouTube knows by heart. The old Bernie Mac “when white people are in the crowd you know you’ve made it” crack for instance.
The white people, a group of about seven, seemed to be his preferred target audience, with the exception of the few friends who were sitting right up front. He had his eyes on them the whole time – which made sense as they were the biggest close-knit group in the restaurant, or maybe because, according to him, white people are smarter, financially wiser, and generally far ahead. Unlike the amaXhosa chicks who are gold-diggers, their male counterparts who are violent. Or the “non-South African” Limpopo men and their humongous marauding ultra-fertile phallus that will leave Marietta – as he christened the only woman in his favourite group – with a gaping hole for a vagina. And, one is left to conclude, umntwana ongondliwayo. Such is the power of stereotypes.
And so it went for two painful hours. A relentless, unending mishmash of backward gibberish and embarrassed chuckles. The beauty of the restaurant/art gallery offered some respite. But it deserved a better show, we deserve better – coz really, with a bit of effort, one can be funny without being fucky.