AMIDST THE thrill-seeking melee being spoilt for choice regarding social calendar events to attend, the local sector of funnybone-ticklers descended en masse on the regal interior of the Lyric Theatre at Gold Reef City – to honour eleven of the continent’s top comedians at the seventh instalment of the annual Savanna Comics’ Choice Awards, on a warm Saturday evening.
In true razzmatazz style as befit the occasion, the industry’s set had walked a yellow carpet [probably in keeping with the brand colour of the head sponsor] populated by an endless row of photographers, television crews, journos and celebrity-spotters hoping for selfies with their favourites.
The likes of Deep Fried Man [with teasing wife, Janine alongside], Celeste Ntuli, Nina Hastie, Tumi Morake, Skhumba Hlophe, John Vlismas, Mojak Lehoko, etc. – frolicked, pouted, teased, gave out the requisite soundbites and played out for the cameras, before heading upstairs to the theatre foyer for chitchats, endless supply of popcorn and pre-show drinks.
Themed ‘The Freedom of Funny’, the 2017 installment celebrated the power that humour has to break down barriers and open borders between African countries and encourage the free flow of comedy talent – in addition for having established a reputation as being the largest gathering of comedy talent on the continent.
The annual variety show featured some of the greatest comedians that Africa has to offer – as celebrities, journalists and politicians such as axed former Deputy Finance Minister, Mcebisi Jonas joined the entire comedy industry to honour the best of the best.
Staying true to the ‘Freedom of Funny’, the gist of the show was a hilarious parody of current affairs, with Hlaudi Motsoeneng (played by previous Savanna CCA award winner KG Mokgadi) interrupting the show to take over and ‘save it’ with a budget of R200-million.
Comedy sketches were interwoven with stand-up as the 11 awards were handed out. As acknowledgement to the original Gupta whistle-blower, it seemed only fitting that Mcebisi Jonas was invited to present the Waldo to this year’s Savanna Comic of the Year.
This Year’s Waldo recipients are:
For selling out at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and his highly successful tour of Australia, Loyiso Gola won the coveted Breakthrough Award, which is bestowed upon an act whose achievement elevates South African comedy significantly.
Up-and-coming contender Thabiso Mhlongo won the hotly contested Savanna Newcomer of the Year category with previous newcomer winner Ebenhaezer Dibakwane scooping the Intermediate Award.
Funnyman Salesman [Collen Chepi] received the Non-English Comic Award for his hilarious vernacular routines. Mojak Lehoko received the Comic’s Pen Award for his outstanding writing on several local television productions.
The Nando’s Best Friend of Comedy was awarded to Goliath & Goliath for the third time for their ongoing support and facilitation of South African comedy.
Acknowledging that the audience is a huge player in the industry, the Audience Choice Award is the only category where the public can vote – and this year’s Waldo went to Elton Mduduzi Ntuli. This is the second time Elton has received this award and it is testament to the massive amount of effort he put into campaigning for public votes.
Skhumba Hlophe scooped two awards this year – both to huge applause from the audience. First was The Flying Solo Award for his hugely successful one-man-show #1STOFALL. Second was the apex of the Savanna CCA’s, The Savanna Comic of the Year,which acknowledged the incredible hard work Skhumba has put into his craft and his career in the last year.
Later outside the theatre to oblige a photo-call, Hlophe commented on how the main gong meant a lot and goodness at finally getting recognition which he deserved.
Hailing from Nigeria, the inaugural Savanna Pan-African Comic of the Year Award went to Basketmouth (Bright Okpocha), a revered celebrity worldwide and one of the hardest working comedians in Africa.
Performing in different countries weekly, it’s no wonder he has over 7,6m followers on social media and arrived in SA to an entourage of adoring fans.
John Vlismas directed the show and was most proud of the tribute to the late Cyril Green, who was announced as the Lifetime Achiever recipient shortly before he passed away in July.
A show highlight and a poignant finale was the beautifully moving, somewhat eerie tribute that comprised an animated montage of photos and press clippings from Cyril’s career projected as an old film onto the white steam-punk dress of vocalist Ani Appleseed (Anika Reinecke).
While Ani sang a heart-rending ballade for the tribute, consummate clowning professional Bevan Cullinan played the part of the Grim Reaper to deliver the final #Goodbye.
Pending an intermission for bathroom calls [at whose basins were place signs of mirth reading: You didn’t come in here planning to wash your hands. But you’re going to now, aren’t you?]; to catch a fag and refills at the bars Savanna’s Marketing Manager Leanne Jones expressed her satisfaction with the attendance that the show was able to pull off, as well as the new venue that the awards were taking place at.
A colleague of hers’ described the event as high calibre and added their pride at being associated with the comedians.
Done with the theatre side of things, guys laden with the rather substantively heavy gongs and wearing expressions of simultaneously, satisfaction and glee – were spotted shuffling towards the after party venue where DJs kept a dance floor suitably populated with those who definitely don’t possess two left feet; the cider lending its name to what the revellers were gathered there at for in the first instance, flowed freely and waiters and waitresses kept a constant supply of finger snacks going around the ground and the mezzanine level of the space.
The organisers of the event have urged followers to keep an eye on the event’s social media pages or visit www.comicschoice.com for news of next year’s event – as well as staying close to VUZU Amp DStv Channel 103 in the coming weeks when a Savanna CCA special will air highlights from this year’s awards show.