Review: Bafunny Bafunny is a Winner

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It was a game of two halves…. inspired by the Rugby World Cup, an 8 man squad of SA’s top ranked comics, skippered by the comedy veteran Mark Banks as the coach, referee and host for the evening saw a starting line-up of Loyiso Gola, Barry Hilton, Trevor Noah, John Vlismas, Nik Rabinowitz and Mark Banks with newcomers Eugene Khoza and Stuart Taylor substituting Gagiso and Mark Lottering from the 2010 squad.

We were first treated to a televised build-up to the ‘game’ with a witty commentary from Gola, Vlismas and Banks followed by a puppetry interview with Victor Matfield and Pierre Spies that shed a bit of light on some misconceptions of the hosting nation, defying the notion that New Zealand is really… well… a bit of a yawn.  And of course there were a few jests about the South African citizens who emigrated there after Nelson Mandela’s release…. only to later migrate back again. The coach wrapped up the screening with a hilarious speech to the boys in the changing room before blowing the whistle.

As the referee, Mark Banks came onto the field first to lay down a few ground rules for the game. Cheekily addressing the last rows – those far up in the dark of the auditorium – as the ‘Kuils River’ section, he then doffed his cap to the front row as ‘Clifton’. Then he pulled a card on Goodwood residents for claiming to reside at GrandWest when the casino is not even a residential area: “I’m not sure,” he said, “Maybe it expresses a sense of class?”

Loyiso Gola, mostly known for his Late Nite News show on E-TV, kicked-off the game with his dry, easy-going humour, yet erred rather too much into vulgar territory. A piece centred on racial issues and conflicts may have offended sensitive viewers, but the general reception by the audience was a good one and he gained a lot of ground for his team, particularly when he dummied his home town for its lack of TV productions and suggested a new soapy: The Bold and the Bonteheuwel.

A pass to the legendary Barry Hilton brought in some more grown up humour, and kept the momentum going with a light-hearted attack on some Australian mates and their accent. For an old timer, Hilton brought a dose of good experience and he doesn’t appear to going any slower after all these years in the game.

With only a few minutes remaining in the first half, newcomer Stuart Taylor fumbled a pass from Hilton, almost losing the crowd for a minute.  But he recovered quickly and went on defence, tackling the mysteries of women and the adventures of his own childhood in a coloured neighbourhood. Taylor’s potential is clearly visible, and working with this team should give him the game time he needs, so watch this space.

The second half was kicked-off by Trevor Noah, a hugely anticipated act, fresh back from the States.  Unfortunately “the Daywalker” chose to apply old and used-up moves to the degree that a random spectator started yelling out the punch-lines.   I think Noah would have preferred a streaker on the pitch at that point.  It seems his own success has come faster than he anticipated.  He is hugely famous now, and he needs to up his game to stay ahead of the pack and keep the surprises rolling in.

John Vlismas picked up the dead ball and got it back into the game with a great monologue bursting out at the rainbow nation. The mood in the arena revived, and the attack was preserved by Eugene Khoza’s musings on three standard issues: the black community, married life and What Women Want. Solid work from Khoza, but it’ll be nice to see what he can do when he stretches himself.

Local favourite Nik Rabinowitz, the Xhosa-speaking Jewish comic, gave a relentless run of impersonations from Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu to coloured gangsters on the Cape Flats, never missing a beat or allowing the audience to breathe, to score a great try in the last minute. A resounding win.

Loyiso Gola, Barry Hilton and John Vlismas competed closely for man of the match and with Trevor Noah pending a drop, Eugene Khoza is first in line for a permanent spot in the team. With fans cheering for extra time, the defending world comedy champions have clearly got a winning formula here.  For me, it was dangerously close to being more fun than the real thing.

Inga Fihla

Bafunny Bafunny runs 20 – 22 October 2011 at GrandWest’s Grand Arena.

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