Farts, GPS and Foreplayby Hagen Engler / 06.06.2013
It can’t be easy being a comedian. They need to be by turns anthropologists, journalists, actors, playwrights, slam poets and political analysts. Some are all of these, others tend to specialise. Tonight’s Comedy Central Presents Kagiso Lediga Live At Parkers is a case in point. Take the guy named Tips here. He falls squarely on the cultural anthropology side of comedy.
After Kagiso’s intro bit, Tips is the first guest comic, airing his unresolved Afrikaner issues. They’re hilarious to contemplate, particularly the school Afrikaans opstelbrief that he can still recite from memory a decade after it was last applicable.
“Liewe ma. Ek is baie ogewonde om hierdie brief aan jou to skryf…” You can almost smell the wild-eyed fear of the taal!
He then segues through some bits about coloureds being underrepresented in the national anthem, gay shangaans, Zulu cops and guy lies vs girl lies. Kagiso had pointed out in the intro that Tips is a former ballet dancer. So there’s a moment of bizarreness when he asks rhetorically, “What makes you think I’m gay?” before launching into the most spot-on gay parody since Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
It’s quality stuff. But as Tips leaves to warm laughs and applause for a contrived climax about the first three letters of presidents’ names, one can’t help feeling he’s capable of more.
A fascinating back-story like his – if it’s for real – sounds like comedy gold. One hopes he also mines that for material. There must be some epic memories in his mind vaults about standing stage right at the State Theatre, holding a curvaceous ballerina above his head by the crotch and trying not to get a semi in front of the president of Portugal. Or something.
Then Kagiso’s back. It’s a strange gig, this one. Because in a way he’s headlining, but he’s also MCing. His performance lacks some of the relaxed looseness he’s known for and he takes a while to ease into his stride. But when he does, it’s all good.
In a tiny comedy scene like SA’s it’s easy to get overexposed and unfortunately for us, we’ve checked much of Lediga’s material before. That’s no train smash, so we determinedly set about nit-picking the shit out of it. For us, Kagiso is best when he’s talking story. The thing about standing in line at the airport is a classic piece of South Africana that should be put on loop at the national gallery, if there is one.
The long-ass fart anecdote that he ends the show with is more about Kagi bonding with the audience, taking us into his world and making a couple-dozen wry observations about us South Africans. (Fragrant, unisex hipsters, he calls “people from the future”. The “darkie” guilt trip is instructive to non-initiates, and he stops just short of recommending the epithet “bungee jumpers” to describe white people). It’s epic in a couple of ways. Nicely, sir. And this stand-up gig is only one of the strings in his bow.
Mark Palmer is a South African comic making a go of a continent-straddling career in SA and the UK. His material, then, is the kind of universal, super-accessible stuff that will appeal to any audience that can understand English. No race-typecasting here, besides a quick one about his aunt from Alberton.
He’s got some sharp concepts, like “a GPS for everyday life” and some keen observational humour – including a fresh take on the perennial man-holding-his-lady’s-handbag issue. He hits a handy beat-poet’s rhyme on technology and you imagine tech is a big theme in his one-man show.
One fancies this is what an international-standard set is supposed to look like. But Mark gets a far less enthusiastic response than the true star of the evening, whose stuff is all as local as it gets.
That person is Celeste Ntuli.
She takes the stage and proceeds to set the place on fire with her fiercely personal brand of comedy. It’s a black woman’s take on relationships, sex, Ghanaian men, sex, lobola, blowjobs and being a single black woman in Joburg. And sex. She seems to exude it.
“It’s hard being a black woman,” is the refrain, but rarely has it sounded this funny. By the time she leaves us to an a capella version of Whitney Houston’s Try It On My Own, everyone in the house has been won over. She even improvs her way through a brief blackout without missing a beat. She’s also an actress on Isibaya, we find out later.
TV gig or not, stage presence like this is rare. The woman is a comedy force of nature. She’s curvy like the Monte traffic circle and damn she sexy! The feeling appears mutual, because the way she plays it, she finds a lot of things sexy. Especially watching football, metal detector wands and men from West Africa.
Parkers is a bladdy concrete vault of a place and our phone was on Edge the whole time. But the minute we got out of there, it was Celeste Ntuli aka @Bhelez whom we wanted to tweet about. That tweet was basically what we said in this review now-now, just shorter.