Past Musings

Notes from the Comedy Wild Side


Author Jilly Cooper once said: ‘Never drink black coffee at lunch; it will keep you awake all afternoon.’

She must have anticipated the now thriving comedy industry in Cape Town, which demands plenty of rest during the day and insists on late nights filled with hilarity.

Being a comedian myself, I have grown to love the Mother City’s comedy scene, which is often unfairly compared to its more established, big brother, Johannesburg.

Cape Town’s circuit, while smaller, offers little enclaves of hilarity, the two most popular situated in Long Street at Zula Bar and The Purple Turtle (Zula Sound Bar, 149 Long Street and The Purple Turtle, Corner of Long Street and Shortmarket Street).

I am often joined on my comedy game drives in the City by my somewhat comically-challenged friend, Jenny, who has started to show a keen interest in what I do, which she refers to as ‘chatting on stage’.

After some persuasion, mostly involving begging and a sushi dinner she convinced me to escort her to the regular Tuesday night Funny Bones comedy gig at The Purple Turtle.

After reassuring her that the venue had nothing to do with strange aquatic life, we entered, passing two burly bouncers and a friendly young lady who insisted we give her R40 each (I assume that that was the cover charge and that she wasn’t a kind thief) and we were seated at our table in the front row.

This venue is legendary in Cape Town and has recently been given a face-lift to restore its previous flamboyant image.

Jenny made some reference to the smoke-filled room, the smell of stale beer and the sound of slot machines in the background but I assured her that it was all part of the experience and that stand-up comedy thrives in this kind of atmosphere. She ordered a shot of cheap tequila and suddenly seemed more relaxed.

The line-up on the Tuesday we visited the Turtle was hosted by the energetic Cockney, Martin Davis, who had the audience in the palm of his hand (not literally of course, the audience wasn’t that small). There were also two open-mic acts, newcomers to the comedy scene.

I explained to Jenny that because they were starting out, the open mic volunteers often “die” onstage. She grew increasingly worried as we watched and when one of them let out a cough during his routine, Jenny leapt to her feet. I realised she had thought that the comic might actually die, as in ‘pass on’ so I grabbed her arm and ordered her another shot of tequila. There were still four other acts on the bill with a short interval in-between.

The headliner for the evening was the versatile and remarkable Rob van Vuuren (also known as Twakkie from The Most Amazing Show) and he slays the audience. Jenny asks me why a lot of stand-up terminology is so violent.

I order her to be quiet because I’m missing the punch lines. The audience is in hysterics. The gig (Jenny made some reference to a computer and I irritably explained that gig means show and bought her yet another shot of tequila) was a huge success.

The venue, albeit slightly alternative, is the perfect setting for comedy; intimate, fairly priced and relaxed. Because of all the tequila, Jenny can’t remember the night but insists her stomach muscles are more contoured from laughing.

Funny Bones runs every Tuesday night at The Purple Turtle, corner of Long Street and Short Market Street. Doors open 8pm. Gig starts 9pm. R40. Line-ups vary. Book @ 021 424 0811

Back in the day