Sweet ‘n Sweatyby Zoe Henry / 26.05.2009
Good South African comedy is hard to find. Although we have a pretty good sense of humour as a nation, it’s a prerequisite for dealing with all the kak, but many comedians find it difficult to translate that into quality stand-up. They tend to come across as that kinda funny guy at your neighbour’s braai. Mark Palmer used to be that guy. His material was inferior, he was sweaty and awkward on stage, which made him rather unpleasant to watch. It’s bordering on unbelievable that that was the same oke starring in Witticism at Obz Café.
Still somewhat sweaty, Mark Palmer has grown confident and his material is better. He’s managed to work his overactive sweat glands into his act, and wears a sweat towel around his neck. A little self-deprecation goes a long way. His gig revolves nonchalantly around some typical subjects, such as problems between the sexes: women’s love of shoes, men’s seemingly unreasonable desire for a nap, and the dos and don’ts of carving a chicken.
The battle of the sexes as the foundation for a comedy show? Ho-hum, nothing new there. But what makes Mark Palmer different from the hundreds of other comedians complaining about their wives is that he keeps it clean. It’s so easy to get laughs with profanities and bawdy sex stories. But to make the audience roar with laughter by regaling them with your wife’s reaction to leaving her sunglasses at home? Now that takes another sort of talent. The sort that’s far harder to come by as an audience, and far harder to acquire as a comedian.
Beyond his cleanliness, Mark Palmer comes across as a genuinely likable guy. Something to mistrust in a comedian, for sure. But it’s a unique selling point, in a profession where so many of his contemporaries come across as arrogant wankers that get their jollies by making us cringe, or abusing someone in the front row, this is a rare find. As a member of the audience, you want to laugh at his jokes.
Mark Palmer’s Witticism runs until 31 May at Obz Café in Cape Town.