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Schalk Bezuidenhout is one of the funniest young comedians in the country. But you don’t have to take a fan’s word for it. The 21-year-old University Of Cape Town theatre student was recently honoured with the Newcomer Award at this year’s Comic’s Choice Awards. These awards are unique in that they task comedians with choosing the winners for each category. For comedians, by comedians. And Bezuidenhout reckons he was in good company in the category he was nominated for and won.
“I thought I stood a chance,” he says, “otherwise I wouldn’t have been up for the award. But I have performed with Loyiso (Madinga), Eureka (Nkese) and KG (Mokgadi) and they are all amazing comedians.”
This weekend, Bezuidenhout performed alongside all the recipients of the awards in a stand-up comedy showcase called The Winners Lap at The Lyric Theatre in Joburg. At this show, which, like the awards, is organised by Whacked, comedians and comedy fans came out in droves.
“The crowd loved it,” recalls Bezuidenhout. “Everyone did well and showed why we were nominated.”
Bezuidenhout is known for his quirky dress sense and the way he lets the audience in on what it’s like to be an Afrikaans-speaking young person. He has comedy bits about rugby, about loving rap songs, interracial dating, interpretative dance routines and being tackled by his “sussie”. His unique material and delivery allow him to stand out in a sea of stand-up comedians and he knows a lot of it has to do with being an envelope-pusher. But does this mean one has to have a mean streak to be successful as a comedian?
“As a comedian, you have to push boundaries sometimes,” he says. “Maybe mean is the wrong word to use, but you have to push the limit a little. John Vlismas is really good with that kind of thing.”
Bezuidenhout says some of the advice he has got about comedians being wary of appearing on TV too much has been from the veteran comedian Vlismas.
“Aside from the fact that there is now Comedy Central which is reaching more of the masses and that’s a good thing,” Bezuidenhout explains, “the quality of material that South African comedians are writing is of an international standard. But some comedians don’t like to do TV because they don’t want to repeat material at live shows. But John Vlismas told me: ‘Just write more material then! Our goal as comedians is to reach as many people as possible.’”
This comedian, who was raised in Kempton Park, east of Joburg, plans to reach many more people through club gigs, improv shows and a one-man show that he will debut in June 2014.