The Free State, SA’s very own silicone valley, has just held a re-election and it might come as surprise that the same five darlings who were elected when the conference was dissolved, by the initiative of local ANC members, have been re-elected, unopposed. That’s right, they’ve changed their minds, these local members have either been employed or given a free blog or whatever it is Ace Magashule hands out to shut people up. The top 5 positions, all going to the same top cronies, sies.
For any switched on, or moderately groovy facing, individual, ideological clarity is tantamount. This need to know what you believe, it’s important. The political spectrum, with its lefty’s and Nazi’s, is a special consideration when you see the amount of prickage that continuum is capable of. To think these things through, so we can defend and consider what’s important is no waste of time. A soft ideologue is a wet, sure there are many around, but they’re tedious. Even if what you believe hangs on some nihilistic exclusionist paradigm, one that revolves around blowing your mind out in some continually drug fuelled binge, then so be it, but it must be done with gusto. Nothing in moderation, everything in excess.
Saying all that, it’s fun to play the devil, or the devil you perceive. Stand up has these moments, where with the right amount of leverage and support from the crowd, you can go dark and play at being the worst human being you’re capable of imagining. It never really lasts though, it’s a device that can be dipped into, but ‘normality’ or your normal straight man has to be found before it’s too late. Otherwise the essence of your character is lost and novelty of behaving like a complete bastard is dulled. This otherness must be dipped into.
This is where I get excited about what Brent’s going to do this Sunday. It’s going to be interesting because he’s using a stand up stage to portray a character from one of his, bloody brilliant, plays called Bench. I watched it a few months ago and loved it. He portrayed this menacing low key gentleman skollie called Henry, with more baggage than a Gupta entourage and he did it to the tee. With another run around the corner, we discussed the possibility of Henry coming to host a Sunday and the rest is happening rather soon. This Sunday.
I’m jealous of the fact that he’ll get to use stand up, the medium, but be someone completely different. Though it’s something I’m certainly not interested in doing, I’m curious about the experience. How it feels. To adopt a completely other personality and then interact with people using it. The canvas will stretch so much further than material and mannerism, all the meta trimmings will be called on. What’s more he’ll be interacting with audience, a healthy bit of creative voyeurism for his characterisation and a chance to laugh my arse off. I can’t wait to see what happens. Come see.
I judged the screening of The Jive International Comedy Festival that’s happening around the corner. Brent Palmer, Kurt Schoonraad, Dylan Skews, Carl Weber, Mel Jones and myself joined forces to consider our city’s next wave of comedic talent. What an incredible evening it turned out to be.
Two brilliant surprises, the level of talent and how much I actually enjoyed the process. Not the judging process, the weighing of talent and art was a fucking nightmare, but the post show conversation we had, discussing, and essentially celebrating, our encounter with this buggeringly bright slew of talent. Of the 26 aspiring comedians more than half already are comedians, I give them my full endorsement to drop the ‘aspiring’ tag, I’d book them anywhere, any time. The originality, the quirk, my mind boggles especially considering how old some of them are.
I kept thinking about what this competition is actually about, prying the layers of hype and considerations for brand vehicles and all the other necessary noises that are associated with such enterprises. The reality is that this world is a ruthless place, the average human is required to spend 50 odd hours a week doing things, difficult things, if they want a level of meaningful income. It’s been said, perhaps ad nauseam, that becoming a specialist at anything requires 10 000 hours. Mr Gladwell’s maxim has permeated, and perhaps saturated, our thinking on this, but it’s certainly true. So, again, this competition is about picking an artist, someone who loves and remains devoted enough to the craft to achieve a level of proficiency without financial reward. It’s about finding this passion and enabling it. I’m speaking hypothetically of course, it’s an ideal, but ideally we’re saying that the winner of this competition deserves to be freed up, to have their profile lifted and qualify to have their work rewarded to a point that allows them to spend their time creating more of it. A stamp of approval, a SABS of sorts.
That’s what I want this competition to be about, the financial liberation of aspiring artists, and given the talent I saw, well, there’s little in the way of me committing to that happening. After all, that’s what I want to do, create and solicit good art and sustain the very same conduits, but first the art must be made and we must become proficient at making it. Any endeavour of this kind has a two fold nature, practice and theory, know shit and do shit, and I’m proud to report that there’s a shit load of that going on.
There are two kinds of bastards in this industry, the kind that use art as a vehicle for success, art is simply a means. The other kind, I’ll remove value judgements because I hope where I stand is clear, has to do with the individual who uses success in art to make better art. Both of these dispositions have their own universes and downfalls.
South African comedy needs three of these guys, I know who they are should you be interested, to quit their jobs and be devote themselves to the craft. I’ll be content with one, just one. If one comedian leaves this competition, freed from bullshit bourgeois fetters, in order to focus solely on his craft, then I’ll drink Jive forever. I stress again, this whole venture has to be about the liberation of the aspiring, if it isn’t, then fuck it.
The reality is that art only works as an ends, you can feel the difference, see the difference, an edge a business pig will never figure out. It’s something we have to keep our eyes on, this industry’s soul.
There’s far too much chaos. A helicopter crash, really? I think we should cut down entirely, we just don’t need this kind of stress in our lives. I’ve become addicted to sharing the daily caffeine infused ritual where we taser each other’s consciousness with daily offerings from our media outlets until our sensibility is left twitching on the floor. Consuming news is a kind of psychic bloodsport, full contact and ruthless. I seldom feel whole after a reading session, but there’s something, seemingly important, at the heart of it. Yet if I’m honest, I’ve accepted staying informed as valuable without aggressive examining. It happened by default.
To request that such a venture operates on a results based level might be too much, the complexity of socio-economics doesn’t really let us. Some manufacturer over charges on a product, a domino effect is discovered and all of a sudden we’re all addicted to jam, to me, this can be just as viable as the crime statistics-foreign investment equation rammed down our social consciousness diet.
I think staying informed for its own sake is a little thin on substance. Too many of the influential and beautiful individuals I encounter have justified keeping this daily grind away from themselves. They’re certainly not stupid nor callous, If half of them married the other they’d create a kind of utopian perfection, with only the best kind of jam.
Despite the innate beauty of these select that remain uninformed, I can’t quite bring myself to joining them, yet my reasons might be weak, I suspect my drive to stay informed might just lean to be conceptually weak, simply because the other bright crayons are doing it, kind of half conviction.
That’s what I’ll do for the next while, think about my thinking, and sift ‘great small talk’, ‘premises for jokes’ and ‘being perceived as well informed’ out of my core motivation for consuming mass media. In its place I’d like an immutable conviction about the fundamental value of staying informed. A higher pleasure concept removed from mediocrity.
Comedy is important. It matters. A society without jesters or fools or some kind of sanctioned ‘say what you really think but funny’ quickly turns into a place where everyone takes themselves too seriously and end up going full retard. Maybe if somebody had been allowed to make fun of his ridiculous mustache Mr Mugabe would’ve got rid of it and ended up less Hitlerey and more Mandela-ey? We’ll never know, because nobody was allowed to tell that joke to his ridiculously attired face, and that’s a crying shame.
I don’t know how many of you remember the bad days, but I do. There was a time around 2005/2006 when there were no comedy gigs in Cape Town: no Zula Mondays, no Jou Ma Se, no Chilibar, no Armchair in Obs. Oh there were the big festivals at places like the Baxter, but there were no comedy clubs. There was nowhere where a new comic could get his first five minutes or take the time and receive the guidance to grow that five to a twenty. There was no family of comics to join, nowhere to go. A few of us tried, myself included, but eventually the gigs sputtered out due to bad sound, bad lighting and the fact that trying to be a comedian and trying to be a gig promoter are two vastly different things.
When Rustum August and Gino Fernandez started up Monday night comedy at the old Zula Bar, something special was born. A regular gig in a venue with reliable sound was a gift, sure, but what later became the Starving Comics was the real treasure. Rustum and Gino spent their meager door earnings printing fliers then going up and down Long Street night after night, week after week, handing them out. Not just because it was a great way to meet the many good looking lady tourists that flood our fair city but because they knew if they didn’t get the word out there they’d have no audience the next Monday and their gig would die. They would focus on the gigs and their material, which left them time for precious little else.
To their credit, they built what was to become the longest running gig in Cape Town with a massive regular audience. A comedy night that eventually hosted the likes of Chris Rock, David Kau, Riaad Moosa, Nik Rabinowitz, Mark Lottering. A night that splintered into other gigs, creating the demand for more gigs, inspiring other promoters: a catalyst for the entire comedy club scene in Cape Town today. Once there was nothing and now there is something. They did that.
To support new gigs however, you need new comics and new jokes. Every week. This is where Rustum excelled. He brought the family. Nobody was turned away, everybody got a shot and everybody was told they were kak when they were kak. And Rustum was up there every week living and dying alongside us. A one-liner ninja in a rumpled suit with the eyes of a well-read baby seal: the man you could talk to about any joke, or anything really, at any time. Someone who was always writing, always questing, always thinking. Every scene needs a magnet like that and Rustum was ours.
Last year he was diagnosed with leukemia and was taken from us fairly quickly in August. We all felt it. We all feel it. He’s left a big old hole.
He’s also still here; his family, his ideas. We want to celebrate them. That’s why Utopia Festival this year will feature The Rustum August ‘Eat Life’ Comedy Stage. It’s a place where you can go to see some of Cape Town’s top comedians, but it’s also a space where an aspiring comedian can come to workshop their jokes and unleash five minutes of material. Whether festival goer or one of the many new comics we’ll be bringing with us, between set shows the stage will be a place to see jokes and comedians take their first few steps and usually fall flat on their faces. Such is the nature of the beast. Come join us.
“Eat Life”: sometimes it’s bitter as hell sometimes sweet as a peach, but it’s the only fruit on the tree.
I remember Martin Evans bitching about how backward our civilisation is concerning fundamentals, how reliant we are on this system of food distribution and the proxy technology that fills the gap between our hunger and knowing how to actually make bread. Louis CK also has a bit about god coming down and shitting all over humanity for what they’ve done to the planet, brown polar bears and the ridiculous superfluity of jobs, “just eat the stuff I left on the floor!” Both these bits are inspired by a good look at humanity, considering our competency as animals and how far we’ve slipped. When I read that domestic workers took the streets for a strike I thought about this.
See, if we had some sort of infrastructure meltdown we’d be fucked, “we’re 24 hours and two skipped meals away from barbarism”, Bob Black said. I think this is true, but how many of us aren’t even sure about modernity’s methods of survival. We’re a generation reliant on being served, an acquaintance I’ve acquired, through the years of eclectic pursuits, has this unique skill set. He doesn’t even make coffee in his own house, he doesn’t drive himself around or know how his toaster works. Everything gets done for him. So, something as complex as a global food distribution crumbling is far too grandiose a scenario to consider his ruin, all that would be needed is his house keeper and cook to skip a few days. We’re talking about a powerful man here, someone who shapes contemporary society, yet there are countless others with similar financial means who are equally as useless. I wouldn’t know what to do if restaurants closed, I’d be forced to consider the isles of grocery stores as a source of food. How to, exactly, transform a butternut into something delicious flummoxes me wholesale. I like the end product, soft, buttery sweet goodness that melts in my mouth, but give me the raw materials for such a venture and I assure you the side order will be a lumpy pat of inedible sadness.
How long will this go on, that we take for granted the little tasks that are cheap to solicit, but actually rather tedious to perform. Human hours are limited and dusting can be fucking time consuming, I’ve heard. It’s in this transaction that more value has to be heaped on the office of the domestic worker, the so called ‘servant’. If, as a suit, your time is billed at R1000 an hour- what value do you attach to the nanny who saves your time by running your household and feeding your children? Surely R20 an hour doesn’t cut it.
I’d love to pay homage to the tilted residue left in the gritty part of my appetite, but sadly I can’t. If only I stayed up all night entertaining hookers while snarfing crank off a bloodied switch blade, then in a post rumpled state of orgiastic excess found myself muttering into my laptop about society’s injustice and some grand scheme to unhinge the bastards at its helm, but that’s not true. I ate some chicken and read the Mail & Guardian while drinking too much coffee. Gonzo is dead.
Staring at a picture of Tata, thinking about what it means to have this man in my political consciousness, in my heritage, as one of my heros, I begin to realise things. Firstly that he set the bar awfully high, I think of his predecessors, a day drunk academic, then what has to be the most apathetic politico to have, possibly, breathed followed by Mr Money Hungry Rapey Pants himself. No graph could properly convey such a plummet. Unless the x continuum was smeared in shit and on fire, perhaps then.
The other thing I realise, when thinking about Madiba, is how stately he was as president, his charm. I miss that, Zuma’s recent bit of interplay, where he basically gathered the nation at his pulpit to shout the words ‘shut up’ seem so very alien in comparison.
I don’t know how the next el presidente is going to compete with this downward spiral trend, it seems a tie between a bestiality sextape and a cameo in 2 girls 1 cup. Whatever it is, he’ll have his work set out for him.
Anarchy’s principle objections are that it promotes violence and is impractical. I can’t think of a better description for our current democracy. Prolific police brutality and MP’s pissing our money against over priced walls, money meant to swallow our economic divide, money meant for feeding & educating the poor’s children. Money, money, money. A tedious argument on repeat, all the while these same fat fuck agents of unchange sodomise long dead revolutionary aphorisms. In the words of a top shelf surrealist, they’re a bunch of ‘cock-hole fuckers’, true that methinks. What’s needed is a buggeringly broad chunk of solidarity, the notion that people are meant to be feared by their governments needs thinking about. Yet the cronies parade shamelessly, we are in trouble, my friends, and I want to talk shop. I serve the Cape comedy underground, a pent up collective, outspoken, skilled and in receipt of considerable sway. Let’s fuck something, someone deserving, up.
But I want an all in affair, I want a cross referenced creative onslaught, this is where you come in. Tell me how.
Ever hear of culture jamming? It’s a wholly art driven affair, some knit beanies for bus stops, plant gardens without official permission, still others manipulate mass media messages and inject thought provoking works of art into our daily lives. Sure some throw bricks, but let’s not jump the gun. The little messages that agitate, what you think of them? Is it in these little messages of agitation that a whole forms, do they eventually smelt together to forge substance?
Many of us write comedy like this, we take stabs at the fuck stained contributions of those who actively pursue power. Cue corruption, cue the business pigs masquerading as public servants, I’ve seen it met aggressively. The resources our politicos have been entrusted with have a primary purpose, the poor. Everything else, including the refurbishment of first world embassies, luxury vehicles, 208 million Rand security upgrades to harem pens and mobile company funded perks for boyfriends come a very distant ‘shouldn’t exist’.
Poverty, that toxic thief of meaning, needs to be seen as the next level nemesis it is. I’m not talking about not having things, or even property, I’m talking about being hungry and sick and cold. When these feature, progression is the nearest to fucked it could be, no human being could realise a beautiful life under these circumstances.
I’ve been cold, hungry and sick, I remember how far touching sides with meaning was, no literary aesthetic, creative ambition, nothing. Not until the pain went away.
That’s why, in an elective democracy, I find it bizarre that we would put these spendthrift pigs in charge of the coffers.
Perhaps the solution is tangible outcry, 250 000 people marching on the houses of parliament, insisting on a better calibre of leadership. Simple demands. Those in charge of public amenities should use public amenities. I want our MP’s to use public transport, public health services, live in RDP houses and live on modest budgets.
Is it really such an extravagant request? That our beautiful country produce beautiful leaders?
What’s the deal here, what’s next? What do we do?
I’ve been thinking long & hard about character when it comes to stand up, not the pretend to be an ‘Indian oke’ school of characterisation, but rather the straight man stuff we, as comics, exhibit on stage. I’ve been thinking about this because apart from being a stand up, I’m also a director, writer and producer of things comedic. Recently having co-produced a documentary called Stand Up Africa and in the throws of writing sketches and a film, will do that to someone.
The protagonist, the lead feature of every stand up’s routine, the neutral voice that she employs, needs a serious amount of consideration. Spontaneity has always been at its most potent when anticipated. This is of course up for debate, but assume I see it as true. So, before going through all the effort of grooming that voice, that cultivated piece of artistic real estate, an important question has to be asked, namely why. Why should that be done, surely the organic (whatever the fuck that means) progression is apt, surely nailing contrivances to one’s voice is damaging and well yes, it is. What I suggest is not stapling a veneer to one’s voice, but properly tending it. Fine combing it. The reason is that protagonists, core characters, remain a powerful vehicle for ideas. Goldman, Nietzsche, Wilde, Shaw- the list goes on, these people all understood this. Let’s look at modernity’s protagonists for a second. Nihilism has received much impressive attention in the last while, aggressive and charming versions alike, think Tyler Durden & Hank Moody & Tony Stark. What we have is a set of precepts, ideas about life and meaning, aesthetic standards and the interpersonal blue prints and fucking everything important really. All viable and beautiful in their own right, but made more so by the way they’re communicated. It’s all in the voice. For the longest time I lost my way concerning the whole ‘find your voice’ mantra that every second established creative bangs on about, I still do at times, but it was thinking through these grand protagonists that my understanding of this phenomenon grew.
I doubt there’s someone that has done more for anarchy’s ideals than Chuck Palaniuk (author of Fight Club). Or a sterner promoter of heady nihilist extravagance than Marvel’s Tony Stark. These aren’t just interesting characters, they’re front men for ideas about the world. They’re ideas in action.
It’s in this spirit that creating an arch protagonist for one’s craft becomes essential. Great gags aren’t enough, pretending to be a member of another race isn’t either, our comedy zeitgeist has evolved, I know this because I’m far more than a comedian, I’m a comedy fan. Something I was way before I considered mounting the stage. My appetite, though probably somewhat skewed given my strange vantage point and even stranger relationship with stand up, still calls the shots.
Individualism, personality, specific hand crafted dispositions, these are comedy’s new gems, like Wilde said, ‘above all else, be yourself.’ Stellar local examples are no other Martin Evans and John Vlismas, who apart from being gifted comedians, are gifted personality curators. They tinker and consider and chisel their cognitive innards ad nauseam.
True vanguard shit, trust me, I know what I’m looking for.
Hi Marty, just thought to write you a quick note, there’s something I need to mention to you. It’s a personal problem, but it seems like I’m not the only one suffering from it, we don’t really talk about it that much, as a people, but maybe this letter will open up the dialogue a little. There’s this trend, I think you’ve heard about it, it’s called work.
Remember back in the 16th century when you taught that work was intrinsically good and that everyone should do it, well everyone believed you and now we’re all very busy. You started a thing called the protestant work ethic, i.e the five day work week. I didn’t think it was all that bad until I realized there was more than one week involved. The routine is as follows, you spend most of your time awake doing things and then, near the end, you die.
It’s not that I’m entirely ungrateful for your contribution to the modern world, you dealt with indulgence salesmen and told the Pope he was the antichrist, both groovy moves. I just don’t get why you’d bang on about how salvation was free and then insist that everyone picks up a spade.
I know you were one of the first Augustine monks to get hitched, paving the way for clerical marriage, was that the reason you insisted that work is a good thing? Didn’t know laying pipe had a flip side did you? Did Mrs Reformation get a little naggy? I just don’t think it’s fair that the rest of us have to work our moer off because you chose the wrong woman, do you?
By the way, I’ve just put down one of your books “On the Jews and Their Lies”, gripping stuff. I don’t know if anti Semitism and the promotion of work go hand in hand, Yids have pretty much cornered that market. Referring to them as “base, whoring people” also just seems rude.
Well, in conclusion, I’m just writing to let you know that I won’t be letting a work besotted Nazi tell me how to live my life and that you should be ashamed of yourself.
I’m going to have a sit down now.
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