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On Fire Indeed

Have a quick listen first.

Pants On Fire by Christopher Steenkamp

I’ve just returned from wine country where Pants On Fire, the Van Vuuren/Evans collaboration, was held in the Kleine Libertas Theatre. Probably one of the best rooms in the Western Cape. About 130 seats of orthodox theatre mixed with just the right amount of rustic grit. A low ceiling with great lighting and sound. It’s what comedy thrives in, a low ceilinged box, perhaps ideologically as well as aesthetically.


The show is a conceptual masterpiece, it’s what happens when you put 15 years of thespian big dickery next to mirth incarnate. Watching from the crowd before they brought me on stage I saw the thing missing in the continuum of comedy experiences in this country, a raw comedic talk show esque exploration of kief. Not raw in the sense that it’s rude, but rather unpolished in an excessively charming way.


Talking to Martin Evans and Rob Van Vuuren after the show I realized something.

Improvisation, comedy that relies on the moment as a fundamental resource, requires a violent back drop of inner spaciousness and a profoundly specific skill set. It turns the focus of the craft away from the material and to the actual voice of the comic. Anyone who’s encountered Evans on and off stage will testify to the chaotically funny conversational edge he exhibits. It seems that the culture of comedy produces a specific kind of animal when pursued, because I see the same artistic orientation in Marc Maron. Calling Evans South Africa’s Marc Maron can be interpreted as creatively unflattering, but I’m not talking about content, I’m trying to be ‘meta’, whatever the fuck that means. As a comic he interests me because he’s interested in ‘me’, me being the audience. I’m fascinated when a weighty intellect applies itself to something seemingly ordinary, pedestrian or pop.


Evans uses all resources of an academic, to reflect on bodily functions and gatsby’s and he does it in an intellectually satisfying way. Joyce Appleby, in her masterpiece The Relentless Revolution, talks about the old guards attitude towards the economy. “A gentlemen doesn’t strive, only servants run around and do things.” There’s something of that landed aristocratic, timeless dandy edge in Evans’ craft and I can’t get enough of it.


I joked with him about the title of his next show, because the title “Martin Evans isn’t Rob Van Vuuren” sprung up to much laughter. Sharing a stage with that over achieving bastard is receipt enough of the kind of talent these two cook up together. There simply is nothing that Rob has done that has been kak, backstage at this years’ Graca Comedy Showdown Rob pulled us together and said, “O.K guys, there’s only one rule, don’t be kak.” A bit of advice he has authority dishing out because nothing this man does is, even close to, kak. Shooting vignettes with him earlier this year for a pilot proposal reaffirmed my suspicions that Rob Van Vuuren is in a league of his own. I’m not sure what kind of neo-liberal-gestapo-waldorf-enlightening training program produced this prolific motherfucker, but it needs to be implemented nationally. His brand of dexterous, multi faceted creativity needs to be put under a microscope because it makes the world an infinitely brighter place.


It’s just so exciting when I see conceptually progressive attempts succeed, they took a risk when they ventured in this direction and it has paid off wholesale. Pants On Fire has all trappings of national institution. I look forward to seeing them own their stage at major rock festivals and attending sold out live television recordings. For now it’s theatres, where it tentatively belongs, but there’s no ceiling on there brand of potent creative excess. #PantsOnFire #SAcomedy


 Follow Martin Evans & Rob Van Vuuren on Twitter.


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August 26, 2012 Early Tilt