Oh god. Sometimes it’s just a bit of an off night. SA comedy can be a shining gift from Valhalla, delivered by a cohort of brave, hilarious warriors of awesomeness. But other times, a couple of mistimed punchlines, a misread audience, a dodgy delivery, a nervous comic… things can combine to throw an evening to the dogs.
That was Wednesday night at Parkers. The place was chockers, as it often is. So maybe it was also me. Forced to stand, I was hemmed into a corner next some dude. If he was any more in my space, we’d have needed connies.
Things start well enough, with genial owner and comedy ledge Joe Parker doing the housekeeping and some intro gags. This thing, Comedy Central Live @ Parkers, has a host, and a star, as well as a headliner. More chiefs than Indians up there, but that isn’t the problem.
Martin Jonas, a true SA comedy king, has a lame one by his usual standards. His impressions we’ve seen before, the ghoefball jokes have been done, the white guy speaking Sotho… meh. We not feeling it. The dodo impression almost saves him, but he goes for one more bit, which misses, and Jonas faces the ultimate embarrassment of having to leave the stage to confused murmurs instead of applause.
Next comic: Lazola Gola. Both he and Loyiso seem at pains not to overplay the “Loy’s boet” card, but there it is. Tonight’s stage seems too big for him. He clings trembling to his mic as he fucks up his first joke about white ladies’ bags. The punchline comes out a beat early and he scoops himself.
Eish. Okes are wincing. Then he limps through some weak material about sex lines, his bro and gayness, and at one point, achieves the quietest few seconds we’ve seen on stage since the one Lebo tribute. Not funny-quiet. WTF-quiet.
“So… Nik-naks, ey?”
Ogh. The thing is, Laz cuts an endearing figure, and we want him to succeed. He surely will, but not tonight. He leaves to sympathetic applause, which is probably worse than boos.
After the break, Joe decides to liven things up with some of his vintage material. It’s not helping. He confuses Paul Adams with Herschelle Gibbs in a weed sketch, and by the time “Baas” whips out one from 1987 about fruit sellers at the robots, we are spiralling down a vortex of kakness towards certain doom.
And then… Then! Like a Jewish messiah of talent, relevance and skill, Deep Fried Man arrives to save the day.
Acoustic adaptations of popular classics is an old one, but Deep Fried’s savvy wordplay puts him in a class of his own. He also knows how to work a crowd. He gets chanting sing-alongs going to the one about making coloured people and the one about pomping your babe’s sister.
His material is fresh, topical and of now. The Malema-JZ relationship, SMS speak, bribery and lank stuff about shagging… we laugh orgasmic roars of such release that people are crying tears, as much of relief as of joy.
“Sing us a song!” heckles someone who looks like that poes Joey Barton, when Loyiso returns.
Truth be told, Loy also saved us. A true pro. As host, he actually does about six sets, all of which rock. He’s got the disciplines: impersonations, political suss, improv, a filthy mouth, and courage. He ends with a two-minute volley of non-stop swearing to an audience of Fourways punters and lands it. Parker bullies him into doing an encore and he wins again, despite dredging the pit of his material by that stage.
He’s rightly the star, but as he’s the guy intro-ing the other comics, you tend to look past him. Couple of those comics had an off night. Salvaged in the end, and I’m sure it’ll look fine in the edit. But a couple of guys saw flames. The tall black dude and the Jewish oke with the guitar rinsed this one.
*All images © Lee-Roy Jason.