Pulling the Comedy Pinby Hagen Engler / Images by Dale Kopping / 21.06.2013
“I’m forty now. I’m not holding back,” proclaims John Vlismas, and he’s not. Everything about him screams it. From his friendly-Satanist aesthetic to his @fortyshort twitter handle to the title of his show, John Vlismas is/in 40.
Clearly this show at the Lyric Theatre is his chance to do all the material he always wanted to do, but couldn’t because of commercial considerations, society’s conservatism or because he was too chicken.
Weirdly it’s also the one weakness of this otherwise flawless performance. Having decided to shock even more than he usually does, he has removed every single audience-protection device from his show. There is literally nowhere to hide and as long as you’re not deaf, you’re guaranteed to be offended by at least something tonight.
The person next to me – in an audience not entirely devoid of cunts – stopped laughing a third of the way through and afterwards seemed to be trying to survive the show more than enjoy it.
The groups hilariously pilloried in the course of the evening include Afrikaners, hippies, bankers, retards, Zuma, Mac Maharaj, Obama, blacks, Satanists, men with small cocks, lovers of cock, cock itself and artificial cocks too.
There are many more victims of this contrarian fusillade besides them, and that’s the point. Vlismas’s latest show is like detonating a lethal, all-new-material, comedy explosive in a crowded theatre and maiming absolutely everybody!
It’s equal-opportunity defamation this, by the bravest, most intelligent comic in the game. So you’re gonna get skewered, but you’ll be skewered by a master. Like, wouldn’t it be a privilege to have your face punched in by Mike Tyson? That’s how it should feel to be a Christian and have John Vlismas eviscerate the founding tenets of your religion in four different ways.
Maybe it doesn’t, though.
Secular non-theists at least get off safely at the end. Them and Zoroastrians.
In this show he takes an audio-visual approach that adds a dimension to his bits about Steve Hofmeyr as well Oscar and Reeva. Or Reeva’s vagina, more specifically.
So when he launches into his climactic comedy assault on every major religion, it’s also with the aid of some nice slides. As each projection comes up, there’s an awkward squirming in the audience, in wide-eyed apprehension at what new satirical horror Vlismas could be about to unleash.
Of course the Christians get the treatment, then the Jews, and the Hindus. For a second it looks like he might be trying to finesse it and avoid taking on the Muslims, but no. Not our John. And not tonight, because he’s forty now, and he’s not holding back.
Luckily he has the talent and the socio-political nous to make his comedy brave, funny and relevant. But there are squirms aplenty, as indeed there should be with anyone serious about their role as artist.
In fact, so sharp are some of his social observations that people start applauding out of respect, or actual, “gee, I never thought of it that way” epiphanies. The Vliz isn’t having it, though.
“No! Don’t clap! I’ll walk off stage, I swear,” he threatens.
This is still a comedy show, and he’s not going to let people forget it. It is also, it must be said, the best comedy show you can go see in South Africa right now.
* All images © Dale Kopping – DK Expressions