Pieter Dirk

There will always be a joke – whether about the state of property for sale in Randburg, the latest political


development or some experience in one of the Durban hotels – to be told; and there will always be a comedian to tell it. That is the way it is, especially in South Africa where the people love a good laugh.

Their hunger for seizing joy and happiness is invigorating and very refreshing. From the time of the free elections, the growth of stand-up comedy has gone from being separatist and shallow to mature and informed. Sure, there are still many racist jokes, but the objective of many comedians is to probe society and provide intelligent commentary in unexpected ways.

Whereas the price of a BMW for sale may not be humorous to most, some of the funniest jokes come on the spur of the moment, and are related to things to which, in any other context, may not be funny at all. There can be no doubt that stand-up comedy in South Africa is a great way to relax and unwind. Visitors to South Africa can often feel a bit nervy about some of the jokes, but over time (if they stick around long enough), they’ll come to understand the humour and lose their apprehension.

Dylan Skews is a young underground stand-up comedian who has won the Nandos Comedy Showdown in 2009. He also got a plum spot on Phat Joe’s Comedy Show in 2010 as the “Next Comedian for Cape Town.” His brand of comedy is charming and natural, edgy but laid back. He likes to impersonate famous people and does it quite well being a trained actor.

Barry Hilton, also known as “The Cousin,” is very popular in South Africa, and his brand of humour resides in an ability to deliver a joke with a dead-pan poker face. He has been referred to as the “king of one-liners.” Hilton was born in Zimbabwe and has been a comedian since 1983. He has a list of firsts as a South African comedian such as the stints at Wild Coast Sun International, Sun City Extravaganza and the Runway Bar in Johannesburg. He has released several DVD recordings of his live show, and does an average of 150 live shows a year.

Aside from doing stand-up comedy acts in live shows, he is a familiar face as a commercial model because of his endorsements for Savannah ciders. He had his own TV show in 2003, and was guest in the South African sitcom, Funny Business. He was also a host in the SABC 2 show in 2008 alongside Cindy Nkabinde.

Here’s a test to see if you are in synch with South African humour: If you find half of them funny, then you have the heart of a South African.

• It’s possible to do your shopping without having to step into a store. All you have to do is walk along the pavement
• More South Africans vote in reality TV shows than in elections
• It’s not surprising to find South Africans with names like Samsung, Christmas, Precious, and even Airtime
• Never cross an intersection right after the light turns green because the taxis on the opposite lanes are still racing through
• Speeding is a way of life, and so is getting traffic tickets and driving at breakneck speeds

South Africans love to look at their way of life and find something funny about it – even if it’s tinged with a sense of the tragic and dangerous. We can all learn from not taking ourselves too seriously and live longer from less stress. It’s the South African way of life!