They are one of the most unique awards around. In the Comic’s Choice Awards, which will take place early next month, professional South African comedians (who have at least one year of performing under their belt), register on the Comic’s Choice website and then vote for their favourite registered comedians in various categories. The funnymen and women get to take home specially made awards called Waldo Statuettes.
The brainchild of John Vlismas and Whacked Entertainment, the award categories include The Times Comic’s Pen Award, The Audience Choice Award, The Newcomer Award, The BlackBerry Breakthrough Act Award, The Comic of the Year Award and The Lifetime Achiever Award. This last one was awarded to the legendary Mel Miller last year.
This year the honour goes to comedy pioneer Joe Parker, who owns the only full-time comedy club in the country, Parker’s Comedy and Jive at Montecasino.
“I’m absolutely chuffed about this,” he told me. “I’m so pleased! It’s a nice gesture by my peers and, you know, there are other guys who have been doing this for longer, but I’m chuffed I’ve been chosen.”
Considering that in the past there have been other attempts – and failures – to reward excellence in the South African comedy industry, it’s refreshing and a relief to know the Comic’s Choice Awards are making an even bigger splash this year. Part of their success is the fact that there are no external forces to dictate who is funny or not, only comedians may decide who is the funniest in the land.
Parker is a fan of these awards. He says: “For the stand-up industry or genre, the people who do it (comedians) have the most insight on who deserves what. The fact that the voting is done in this secret ballot kind of way means it’s done properly.
“The people who know what it takes are the ones who give others the opportunity to win. And the weight of the numbers who vote is close to the true reflection of how the industry feels.”
While it’s a huge honour to be labelled a Lifetime Achiever, it does come with a slight twist this year. An event before the awards that is called the Grilling of a Lifetime.
Here, a board of directors who are chaired by Miller will basically roast the Lifetime Achiever. This lambasting takes place at the end of this month and Parker says he’s not nervous about it at all.
“Now that I know who is on the panel,” he says, “I will be doing my own research on them. I know it can be quite hectic for some, but I believe the people doing the grilling want to participate and I see that as a sign of respect.”
Some would say receiving a Lifetime Achiever Award in any industry is a sign to retire if one hasn’t already. But Parker shows no signs of slowing down. He still gets on stage every now and then and does his bit to mentor up-and- coming stand-up comedians as well as give old and new acts a platform to perform on the Parker’s Comedy and Jive stage.
“With a bit of luck,” he concludes, “we’d like to entice more people to get involved in comedy so we can open a Parker’s Comedy and Jive in Cape Town and Durban. That would be something I’d really like to achieve.”
• Catch the Grilling Of A Lifetime at Parker’s Comedy and Jive inside Montecasino on June 26. Tickets are R220 at Computicket and at the comedy club’s box office. The Comic’s Choice Awards will take place at the Teatro Theatre inside Montecasino in Fourways on July 10. Tickets to the event are available at Computicket.
To make up the categories in the Comic’s Choice Awards, registered South African comedians vote for their favourite funny fellows. Here is a complete list of this year’s nominees.
The Times Comic’s Pen Award:
The Audience Choice Award:
Deep Fried Man;
The Newcomer Award:
The BlackBerry Breakthrough Act Award:
Mpho Popps Modikoane;
The Comic Of The Year Award:
The Lifetime Achiever Award: