Billed as the “Government of Comedy” the comedians are each introduced as ministers of outrageous fabricated departments, such as ‘Minister of Hair and Skincare’ and ‘Minister of Sunday Lunch’. No subject is safe, though the obvious ones – politicians and Oscar Pistorius – prove to be particularly favourite mice for these cats.
Mpho Popps Modikoane describes Oscar Pistorius to a ‘paralympian sharp shooter’, even suggesting that the shooting was because Reeva had a Samsung and Oscar had an iPhone. Cue awkward laughter from an audience trying not to feel guilty for laughing. Modikoane, as the opening act, sets the tone for the rest of the show, and his evocative sense of humour and striking impersonations are gleefully soaked up by the audience.
Alan Committie is number two in the lineup, and in his role as ‘Minister of Headucation and Literasy’ he laments the marie biscuit’s lack of fortitude as a tea-dunking agent. A master of audience harrassment, on opening night he singled out an unfortunate bald man and advised a restaurant owner to play hide and seek with his waiters. Committie’s set has an on-the-fly quality, and his quick wit and sharp tongue are impressive.
Then came Joey Rasdien, arguably the most entertaining comedian of the night. The auditorium echoed with the sounds of people gasping for air between fits of laughter. Working his political angle he observes the shuffling of ANC ministers from one position to another, citing Beki Cele in a rant that brings on the kind of laughter that squeezes out tears. Throughout his set his expressive observations and comparisons are brilliantly wry and his comic timing proves impeccable.
Thumi Marako, the only female comedian in the line up, is no less flamboyant for her pregnancy, belting her way through racial stereotypes and why Indian men make the best lovers. Decked out in massive high heels and a ton of attitude, Marako brings her own brand of humour to the mix.
Ndumiso Lindi is next in a light hearted, rather conversational set which comes off very well. He speaks as if to a neutral South African audience, with a refreshing comedy without any real agenda. Lindi’s persona on stage is endearing and his set, from an impression of a young Nelson Mandela to memories involving Kurt Cobain, keep the laughter flowing healthily.
Chester Missing, the puppet commentator operated by comedian Conrad Koch, is characteristically politically orientated with a cleverly conceived satire that highlights controversial characters such as Julius Malema and Helen Zille. Listening to the banter between Koch and Chester, one spends as much time laughing as critically pondering what’s being said while trying to stay abreast of the fast-paced set.
Finally, though certainly not as an afterthought, comes Nik Rabinowitz, unabashedly throwing contentious issues under the proverbial bus, among them the Israel-Palestine conflict and the Dalai Lama’s third refusal of a South African visa. Rabinowitz is a giant of South African comedy, and his messages are both extremely funny and extremely poignant.
With a seriously strong cast of comedians, each bringing something unique to the table, Mass Hysteria is comedy at its finest. For the better part of three hours, you can expect to be constantly entertained before walking out with a lighter heart and a few more things on your mind.
Nando’s Mass Hysteria runs at the Artscape Theatre until 13 September.