The South African public, in general, attend theatre comedy shows and buy movies made by local talent: in turn, this makes the entertainment industry of South Africa a relatively successful commercial endeavour. It is certainly true that South Africans have a great sense of humour and enjoy a good laugh now and then.
Interestingly, the country’s racism is often used as the butt of a joke, BUT, jokes that are racist are certainly not condoned in the public sphere: indeed, the issue of race relations is still a very sensitive subject. With this said, in an appropriate context, humour may be used to address and poke fun at cultural difference.
It is perhaps natural that in a society with as an extraordinary history as the contemporary post-Apartheid South Africa, humour will strongly tend towards themes contained within political satire and cultural prejudice. It is, however, often the aim of humourists to either diffuse racial tensions or to provide intelligent commentary on political figures.
Aside from the popular topics of race and politics, South African humour is very similar to anywhere else in the world. There are excellent stand-up comedians who seem to be able to make a living telling jokes; in addition to stand-up comedians, there are comedy actors for stage and TV.
It’s not uncommon to see witty dialogue-driven humour and physical, slapstick jokes in the same show. It works simply because South Africans have learnt to appreciate both types of comedy.
The overall experience with comedy in South Africa is that most people are willing to see the lighter side of life and even go so far as to laugh at themselves instead of others. It’s a healthy form of releasing tension, and anywhere you go in South Africa there’s laughter.
The Use of Accents
A common tool in comedy in South Africa is the use of accents. The country is diverse and contains numerous ethnicities/cultures. Many South Africans believe that the stronger the accent, the more telling it is of the background, ethnicity, and material wellbeing of a person. In short, those who suffer from financial insufficiency tend to have hard, thick accents. It could be because of the quality of the education or the environment, but either way accents are generally understood to be a trope often used to indicate class and type.
The Rainbow Nation
South Africa has been coined the “Rainbow Nation”, not because of the diversity of possible property investment, but rather owing to the fact that SA has a radical diversity of culture and ethnicity. In fact, it’s similar to the situation in the US, which was also once referred to as a melting pot of different cultures. There are obvious stereotypes and it isn’t just concentrated on skin colour. White people are stereotyped as well based on skills (they have two left feet), class and finances, or the white male being less sexually active than the black male. It appears to be a volatile situation for someone looking in, but according to most South Africans, stereotypes are more entertaining than they are offensive.
In summary, the comedy of South Africa is continually evolving and constantly breeding new, intelligent, and often controversial voices. And now, with the huge success of YouTube, any talent can contribute to the production of culture by grabbing a Canon camera and recording their humorous thoughts for the world to see.