03 Oct Jokes aside: A Q&A with comedian Schalk Bezuidenhout
Schalk Bezuidenhout, the guy who wears knitted jerseys and colourful tekkies, has a distinct moustache and wild hair, is fast becoming a household name in SA comedy. He’s 23, but has already opened for Trevor Noah (yoh!) and won two Comics Choice Awards (ja, nee). If you still don’t know who we’re talking about (ag,shame) then you’d better head over to YouTube.
Capetonians, you’re lucky because his debut one-man show, Second Language, returns to The Baxter at the end of this month (yasss). It explores his conservative upbringing in Kempton Park with his current liberal outlook on life. Since moving to the Mother City to study theatre at UCT, Schalk’s observed that Brutal Fruits are too expensive and English girls should moisturise their hands more. We had a quick-sticks chat to him about his upcoming show and what it’s like having to be “funny” all the time.
What was it about comedy that made you think, ‘this is where I belong’?
I love the immediacy of it. Once you drop the punchline, you know immediately if the audience enjoyed it or not. I also just love making people laugh. And love making. Both those things. And boerewors rolls.
Tell us what happened when you told your family and friends you wanted to be a stand-up comedian.
I never told them I wanted to be one. I just one day told them: “I’m a stand-up comedian now.” My friends loved it. My parents were less stoked. My mom would always say: “Do you have to say the f-word so much?” because I used to talk about the French a lot in my set, and my mom doesn’t like the French.
You’re originally from Jo’burg and came to study in Cape Town. What surprised you most upon first arriving in the Mother City, and how has it shaped your perspective on South Africa since then?
What surprised me was how lekker English girls are! Afrikaans girls where I come from you had to court for seven months, wash her dad’s car, sing Seal’s Kiss from a Rose outside her window, and then maybe you’d get a kiss on the cheek. At UCT all I had to do was buy an English girl a Brutal Fruit and we would be able to hold hands the whole night. It was crazy. My perspective on South Africa since then is that Brutal Fruits are too expensive and that English girls should moisturize their hands more.
Not too long ago, you opened for Trevor Noah. What went through your mind when you heard the news and how did you decide which of your signature jerseys to wear?
I instantly knew it would be a huge opportunity to open for Trevor (yes, we’re on a first name basis). It was awesome. It’s a pleasure watching him work. I also got to see the show evolve over the course of the run, and then you realize how much that dude writes. If something happens in the news he mentions it the next night and throws in a punny one liner. He does a 20 minute jokes that’s so well crafted, it sounds like he’s been doing it for years. I decided which jerseys to wear by doing the smell test. You get sweaty when you wear a jersey on stage, and they start smelling like a horny teenager at Matric rage (if you don’t what that smells like it’s a combination of Brutal Fruit and testosterone). So, whichever jersey smelt the best I would wear.
Your one-man show, Second Language, is returning to the Baxter. What’s your favourite part about doing the show?
Seeing a theatre full of people that came to see ME. ***WARNING***: This is the part of the interview where it gets soppy. Those people didn’t just go: “Hey, let’s go watch comedy.” They went: “Hey, let’s go watch Schalk Bezuidenhout’s comedy.” And that is a lekker feeling.
We’re intrigued, how do you go about the process of gathering material and preparing a new set?
My material just comes to me. I can’t plan it. This makes me sound like some kind of psychic comedy oracle, but it’s true. I would get ideas for material in the most random places; in the shower, in the car or in a submarine. Like, really random places. And then, I will turn it into a joke, go test it somewhere on stage, and then I’ve got the material.
Is it possible to define South African humour and if so, how would you describe it?
I think if something is funny, it’s funny. I will say, however, that South Africans are still quite conservative at what we laugh at, compared to maybe the British or Netherlands. You’ll often hear audience members shout “TOO SOON” after an Oscar joke. Then you think: “Really? Oscar? That was ages ago. Also: Oscar is a murdering asshole and deserves to be made fun of in my set.” But, I think South African comedy is in a very, very good place and will continue to grow to a point that we can’t imagine.
What’s the most awkward and most enjoyable thing about being a comedian?
I enjoy being funny all the time and sometimes not. Some days you just don’t feel funny. Some days you have to go for a meeting in Woodstock and a policeman pull you over for talking on your phone and you have to beg him to not confiscate it and then you get home and then your favorite t-shirt has shrunk in the wash, and then someone phones you and asks you if you would do a gig for free because it’s for “charity”, and then you think to yourself since when is a bar mitzvah charity, and then you go for dinner and then the waiter says that he will not bring your food before you have made him laugh. Then, it’s a bit awkward.
Do you ever have days when you feel like nothing is funny. And if so, what do you do to find the humour in things?
I would like to use this opportunity to refer to my previous answer. But I’m sure you can always see the humour in it. Like that previous answer made you laugh a bit, right? Just a giggle? A smile? If your answer is “yes” to all/some of those questions then you should come watch my show. If your answer is “no” to all/some of those questions then you should come watch my show.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received and would pass onto others wanting to pursue a similar career path?
The best comedy advice I’ve ever received was when a comedian, Dave Levinsohn, did a guest spot one night at the Cape Town Comedy Club, and he literally just told the audience about the last 24 hours of his life. It was one of the best sets I’ve ever seen. I asked him afterwards how he did that and he said: “Sometimes the audience just want to know how your day was.” ***WARNING***: The interview also ends on a soppy note. I guess the advice would be that comedy is just a conversation between you and the audience. It’s not an ‘act’. They want to come listen to YOU and want to hear YOUR opinions on things. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this. Buy tickets to my show. Look how nice I am, I’ve even included the link. Lekker!