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.
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