Review: Schoonraad Takes Cape Town Comedy Club to the Pumphouse

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jou-ma-se-comedyCapetonians braved an almost comical wind and rain for the launch of Jou Ma Se Comedy Club’s new venue at the V&A Waterfront last Thursday. But it was well worth it. The impression on entering was of a mass of wine-sipping guests, provocatively dressed showgirls, and television cameramen looking for the perfect spot – all very psyched to be there. At the entrance an imposing and magnificent white floor circle details the logo of the club, complete with color changing spotlights. On opening night Tweeters and Instagrammers went crazy for photo-ops on the showbiz-like spot.

The club is the brainchild of Kurt Schoonraad, he of the heavy Elvis vibe (sans the singing and the lip-curl of course). Schoonraad certainly knows how to push the boundaries; the name of the club alone, and more specifically the allusion, is enough to result in some seriously ruffled feathers amongst the pearl-clutching conservatives. But the venue itself is solid and reliable, despite the potential innuendo of its name.

With its distinct industrial/loft-style glory intermingled with some gothic nuances and minimalist twists, Schoonraad could not have chosen a more appropriate venue than The Pumphouse. Built in 1892, the building not only has historical significance as the first place in Cape Town to have electricity – a full 10 years before the rest of the city – but the venue should attract locals and tourists alike due to its strategic position.

Having broken free of the shackles of a contract at the River Club, Jou Ma Se Comedy Club has now taken Cape Town comedy by the balls.  As the only dedicated comedy venue in Cape Town, it was no surprise to see, on opening night, some industry heavyweights out in full support of the venture.  Soli Philander, Riaad Moosa (currently back in SA for the local premiere of the upcoming Mandela biopic), Siv Ngesi of the Race Card fame, Mel Jones, Stuart Taylor, Carl Weber and many more rubbed shoulders with an enthusiastic crowd.

The ambience at the launch played an integral part to set the mood for the overall perception of the event. Songstress Emily Bruce and her band diverted attention from the bad weather with her soothing lyrics and set the pace for an afrojazz-fused evening. Last year’s Masterchef contestant, Sue-Anne Allen, in her official position as head chef of the club, gave us a preview of what lies ahead with appetizing and sumptuous fingerfood. Complementing the marina surrounds of The Pumphouse, fresh oysters, salmon canapés and salsa bruschettas were amongst a  selection of light seafood snacks served throughout the evening.

On stage, we got a quick, albeit rough, intro into African life and outlook with the opening act for the night, Loyiso Gola. Everything and everyone is fair game for Gola – corruption, disability and even paedophilia. Tall in stature, he inhabits the stage with a huge confidence. While I am definitely not an authority on stand-up comedy (any sex-related joke makes me squirm), John Vlismas certainly struck a nerve, delivering a tongue-in-the-cheek monologue with a matter-of-fact certainty and a genuine enjoyment that was astonishingly endearing. His thought-provocative opinion on ‘African-time’ was hilarious, and if those are his sentiments, I cannot wait for his take on ‘Cape Town-time’.

Our Cape Town comedy industry has been elevated to an impressive level over the years with a few good trump cards such as the International Comedy Festival,  Stuart Taylor’s memorable Learner Husband monologue, the ongoing popularity of Marc Lottering and Nik Rabinowitz, and one of Baxter’s top grossing shows, Siv Ngesi’s Race Card. It can also be argued that stand-up comedy has evolved as a spontaneous throwback to its more generic celluloid variety – similar in certain ways, yet distinguishable. It’s live; it’s challenging and almost always politically incorrect, as opposed to rehearsed, censored and tailored to a specific demographic – the Achilles heel of television comedy.

To that end, Schoonraad’s venture has the precise timing of a well-delivered bon mot. While the Jou Ma Se Comedy Club will essentially feature a growing pack of established local comedy acts, it will also provide space for visiting international acts as well as rookie comedians wanting to showcase their talents. With its controversial politics and diverse cultures, South Africa provides a rich and exigent narrative for comedy.  The permanent establishment of the Jou Ma Se Comedy Club in such a cracking venue provides the perfect petri dish to grow this culture further.

Benn Van Der Westhuizen

Jou Ma Se Comedy Club was launched on 31 October at The Pumphouse, V&A Waterfront.

 

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