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June 27, 2012

Vodacom Funny Festival performers unearth Cape Town’s comedic side

The Boy with Tape on His Face had writer Bill Corcoran in stitches at the Vodacom Funny Festival at the Baxter Theatre in Rondebosch. Photo courtesy Eddy Cassar Public Relations and Promotions 

If laughter is the best medicine to cure ailments, then Cape Town's Vodacom Funny Festival is the finest dispensary in the country when it comes to dishing out medicinal humour.

I spent an evening at the Baxter Theatre in Rondebosch where the festival is underway, and after three hours of being entertained by six comedic acts I walked away with an ache in my side and a smile on my face.

The show has evolved considerably since 2010 when I first booked myself in to the University of Cape Town venue for a dose of medicinal humour. As well as the traditional stand-up comedy, there were two new routines on show which were the pick of the night for me.

The Japanese double act, Gamarjobat, was hilarious without uttering a comprehensible word in jest between them. The pair of mime artists with Mohican hairstyles delivered a relentless barrage of pitch-perfect silent scenarios in which they tried to outdo each other.

Japanese comedic act, Gamarjobat, is a must-see act at the Vodacom Funny Festival. Photo courtesy Eddy Cassar Public Relations and Promotions

So too was Sam Wills from New Zealand – also known as The Boy With Tape On His Face – who has unearthed a brand of comedy in which actions and facial expressions speak louder than words.

Both acts have crowd participation at the core of their performances without humiliating those they rope into the entertainment.

Now, it would be remiss of me not to say the other international and local acts (Kurt Schoonraad, Imran Yusuf and Kev Orkian) were also funny and well worth the R140 entrance fee, but the innovation displayed by the silent comedians was pure class.

For the purposes of giving readers of the Cape Town Tourism website some insight into what comedians are like off stage, I was invited to have lunch with the festival's cast at Gold restaurant on Strand Street in the city centre.

I'd been told by media colleagues in the past that socialising with a group of comedians can be an interesting experience, but I was still surprised when it transpired that these artists appeared to be perpetually on the job.

From the moment we entered the restaurant, which serves up a great mix of African and Cape Malay cuisine, the gags were coming fast and hard in what appeared to be a competition among comics to outdo each other in the funny stakes.

It's not often you witness a "peeing contest" between comedians and I'm happy to report it made lunch a more raucous and entertaining affair.

Before we sat down to eat I had a chat with Kurt Schoonraad that was somewhat serious, and in between jokes he was happy to report that South African comedy is beginning to gain significant traction in the local and international entertainment industry.

"During apartheid there wasn't a lot to laugh at locally, and foreigners had a certain image of South Africans that was informed by what they saw on TV.

"It's taken a while, but the outside world is beginning to understand the true South African mentality and personality, and they are warming to us and our sense of humour," he maintained.

Long may it continue!

The Vodacom Funny Festival runs at the Baxter Theatre in Rondebosch until July 8, 2012. Book your tickets at Computicket.

For more hot entertainment in the Mother City this winter, visit our 2012 winter gig guide.

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