If we're going down, we're going down laughing
In the laughter Olympics, South Africa could field a team of gold and silver medalists, with the players of Bafunny Bafunny leading the pack. By LESLEY STONES.
The Bafunny Bafunny tour, taking some of the country’s top comedians on a short sprint through the country, is proving far funnier than the foreign teams we’ve recently hosted.
Dubbed the 2012 Olympics of Funny, the team delivers comedy on steroids, winning the longest laugh, loudest applause, silliest expression and wickedest satire events.
They don’t bother competing for low-brow titles like the rudest, crudest joke or the most swear words you can fit into a 15 minute sketch, where crass Americans are the clear medal winners. This was slightly higher-brow comedy, often tickling the intellect as well as the funny bone.
The audience was equally impressive, drawing a crowd of all ages and all colours, delightfully laughing at all the same things.
The toned line-up of comics delivers a wonderful variety of humour, material and pace, and it’s a long time since I’ve heard an audience laugh this loudly.
At R150 to R250 a ticket it’s a mightly fine night out.
Veteran comic Mark Banks was a fabulous MC, hitting us with very visual humour, including a gamut of Mr Bean-type grunts and grimaces. I’d forgotten how good Banks could be, and his five-minute slot between acts was consistently impressive. I love the way he laughs at his own jokes, which wraps us in an infectious sense of confidence. He barely swears, doesn’t do the easy racist fare, and his wacky sense of the absurd is highly contagious.
The team is changing from night to night, and our comedy athletes were David Kau, Kagiso Lediga, David Kibuuka, Chris Forrest, Mpho Popps, Nik Rabinowitz and Deep Fried Man.
Popps was first to be handed the baton, and he delivered an impressive performance that dwelt on cultural differences with some and hilarious non-stereotyped observations.
Ugandan-born Kibuuka was still kind of limbering up in the comedy Olympics. He’s been around a while, and his track record is running on African time in its theme and speed of delivery.
He was quickly overtaken by Nik Rabinowitz, a local favourite who’s fast and hugely funny. He either got a very short time slot or just made it fly by far too quickly. He ran a political race and was the clear winner in the first half.
Deep Fried Man left his introverted stage persona at the door this time, and bounced on for an act of medal-winning quality. He’s a singing, dancing comic and topicality is his forte. He gave us the Jacob and Julius song and the white boy dancing routine, enlivened by a new Gangnam Style insert.
Chris Forrest has also changed his image a touch since I last saw him, moving from the deadpan heavy guy with specs routine to a livelier persona with a slew of fresh material.
The tone was very different with Kagiso Lediga, who offered a very politicised act that initially felt odd after the more frivolous fun we’d been having. It’s very smart stuff, taking us onto a different track, but one needs five minutes before one’s head gets into his space and catches up with him.
Then we were on the final straight, with David Kau taking over. He was a charmer, bringing us back into a more flippant, lighter side of life; yet making some hugely funny jokes about politics and literacy that underlined South Africa’s extraordinary landscape of potential hilarity.
As Banks said in his one of his more serious moments: through laughing with each other, at each other, at our foibles, fears and cultures, we have grown as a nation. “Laughter is all we have left, there’s nothing else we can do,” he said.
Maybe South Africa does sometimes feel likes a world champion in sliding down the rainbow, but at least we can go out laughing – right? DM
* Bafunny Bafunny runs at Montecasino in Johannesburg until October 14, Cape Town Artscape from November 2–4 and Durban ICC on November 10 and 11.