This is not a review; it’s a story about how I got to write a review about a comedy show, narrates Anathi Nyadu.
The big break
The story begins two days before with a text from Ace Moloi sent at 21:45. The text comes in the form of a question: can you review a comedy show? I only see it the next morning and am too eager to type, “I’ve never done it before. But I can,” and press the send button without caring to check that it’s 6:18 in the AMs.
Fast-forward two days later, it’s in the AMs again, but this time I’m not smiling at a text but looking through the open window. It’s a wet Wednesday morning. The breeze is refreshing and rejuvenating just the way I like my mornings. The only thing I’m not feeling optimistic about is the clouds up in the sky. Grey clouds covering the city have a way of making me want to go back to bed. But today I can’t afford to go back to bed.
Today is supposed to be the biggest day of my life. I’m finally going to the field. My three years of undergrad journalism studies are going to be put to the test. I find the fact that the first professional gig I got as a journalist was to cover a comedy show funny. But as the day progresses, I realise that none of this is a laughing matter.
I’m panicking and feeling like I’ve been thrown in the deep end and left to swim to safety. For the first time in years, I find myself paging through my first year journalism textbook, Inside Report, looking for sage wisdom to the incessant questions in my mind. The first being: how does one review a comedy show? Is it by the laughter of the crowd, the quality of the jokes or by subject matter?
At 5:54 I’m walking in the drizzling rain with a camera in hand. Taxis, when you need them most, particularly when you are late, are very scarce. A taxi, with its two rear lights blinking, passes me as I join President Paul Kruger Street from De Bruyn Street. I run after it, careful not to trip and fall. Just as I get closer, it drives off, splashing water onto the three girls walking by the sidewalk. Profanities leave their mouths like knives intended to cut deep wounds into the driver, but are drowned by a passing scooter.
A taxi with Pep stickers plastered all over it comes through one of the streets that join into Paul Kruger. I run after the taxi, whistling and waving my hands, but the driver is on his Madam Speaker mode, he hardly recognises me as he speeds off.
“I’m late! I’m late! I’m late!” my mind chants these words like a mantra. As I was running after the taxi, I left the cover of a tree and I am now exposed to the rain. I stand in the middle of the road, not sure what to do with myself, hating myself for my tendency of being late, swearing inwardly that for future engagements I will not make the same mistake again, but knowing somehow, somewhere in me, that I, Anathi Nyadu, am not in control of the hands of time, nor am I in control of this chaos called life.
I’m now at Macufe Dome, where the comedy show is to be held. I remember the taxi having to stop briefly there because of the traffic outside the venue: a long line of cars controlled by traffic cops. On the left side of the road, there’s a long line of people controlled ready to laugh.
The big hall is already full as I walk in, but the comedy show has not begun yet. The DJ plays some hits from Trompies and a man old enough to dance to the song moves and gestures with his hands to correspond with the lyrics of the song.
I am still not sure what to expect from a comedy show when the night’s MC, a comedian who has been in the industry for longer than any practising funny man in South Africa, David Kau, takes centre stage. He is accompanied by a song: it’s Donald’s I Deserve. The crowd promptly responds by standing up from their chairs and cheering.
This is the 10th edition of Macufe Comedy and he has performed in at least nine of those, he announces. He warns the crowd not to focus too much on taking pictures of the night, but to actually sit down and watch the show. He calls on stage a surprise artist: Donald. And the crowd goes crazy! The show has officially started as the crowd is now on its feet and dancing and singing along.
How funny can you go?
For me, today is a day of many firsts. Though I have lived in Bloemfontein for five years, it is the first Macufe event I am attending. As mentioned earlier, it is also my first day on the job. It also happens to be my first time attending a comedy show.
The first lesson I learn at the comedy show is that nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is off bounds when it comes to subject matter for comedy. Perhaps this is because anything, be it a tragedy or horror, has potential for comic effect.
The first comic act, Thabang ER, proves my point when he compares Black people to White people’s funerals. Though this is a tired joke, it draws cheers and something akin to a standing ovation when he switches to the importance of black parents investing in the education of their children. This, the long clap at the mention of education, is not surprising when one considers the fact that this huge hall is filled with black youth: a generation that is financially excluded from higher education.
Tieho Khakhau’s comic set is filled with popular songs that he has changed to add comic effect. Lebo Segobela’s Boholo Ba Hao, in the hands of Khakhau, becomes putty to poke fun at older men pursuing girls young enough to be their daughters when he sings, “Boholo ba hao bo a jump(isa) o moholo.”
The next act is Thenjiwe Mosley, a Durbanite. For her, not even Nigerian dick is off limits. She takes on the black guys who tell black girls that they would look nice with 100% percent Indian hair by retorting that they, too, would look nicer with 100% percent Nigerian dick. Ouch!
Spare the gay joke, spoil the show
Shaun Dihoro comes on to tackle the way side chicks and main chicks behave in relationships. Side chicks will be in your face even when you are driving, whereas main chicks will be quiet the whole road, only calling you to order when you drive at 140km/h. “Ntate wa Thabo o tla re bolaya.”
Of course, a comedy show is dull and dry if it’s without homosexuality jokes. Just like Limpopo, the LGBTI community has become an easy target for often pedestrian jokes. Shaun Dihoro asks us to imagine what will happen when a criminal runs away from a gay police officer, before characterising the policeman: “Thabo o a imora hle. Ke tseba ha lona!”
Everything is a joke
I could go on and on about how the comedians take practically anything and turn it into comedy. Take Skhumba for example. The TV host poked fun at people in wheelchairs and how stubborn they are. Rasta Eye Eye questioned Black people’s ancestral ritual of ho etsa mosebetsi for mosebetsi.
Other acts, such as Noko Mosoete, Schalk Bezuidenhout and Elton Mduduzi dug into the commonly accepted to create comic magic.
I’m not joking
Most people think that the job of a comedian is as simple as standing on the stage and making people laugh. Oh, no, it’s more than that! Comedy, if done right, can provide valuable commentary on society.
Comedians, like writers, hold up a mirror for society and say: “Look, this is how, you, humans behave,” and often what we see in their mirror is so true or so close to the truth that it makes us laugh at ourselves for not seeing it first.
Anathi Nyadu is studying towards his BA Hons in Media Studies and Journalism at the University of the Free State.
FEATURED IMAGE: David Kau hosts Macufe Comedy. Credit: Anathi Nyadu