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POPULAR comedian Simmi Areff is one of those Durban exports who’ve flown the flag high when it comes to making audiences laugh.
Since leaving the city for greener pastures in Joburg, his career has snowballed, with the funnyman opening for comedians like Riaad Moosa.
Among other achievements he has appeared on the Comedy Central channel and earned a reputation as one of comedy’s heirs in waiting.
His debut solo show, Strictly Makrooh, rocked the boat in some circles in Joburg, where it played to sold-out audiences.
Tonight spoke to Areff to find out more about what he would be bringing to Durban stages since last performing here last year.
He said moving to Joburg was the best thing he could have done for his career.
“Comedy-wise Durban is a small place… It depends on who you are, but for me it was the best decision to go.
“Other guys thrive in Durban, like Jem (Atkins), Glen (Bo), Carvin (Goldstone), they all stay in Durban and are really successful because they are so close to the community. There’s a lot more happening in Joburg as well in terms of places to perform – you can perform almost every night.”
Last year, Areff was threatened with legal action by the South African National Halaal Authority for using a parody of the organisation’s logo during the promotion of Strictly Makrooh. We asked if Areff felt there were any major issues with Muslim comedy in South Africa.
“There are always issues with Muslim comedy… The thing is, if I come to your house and offend you, then it’s my problem. But if you come to my house, if you paid money to come to a comedy show, then why are you offended?”
Asked what it was about comedy that drew him to it, he said: “Money, drugs, fame and b**s… in that order,” he laughed. “No seriously, I just like telling jokes. I didn’t know about this thing you could do where you just stand up and tell jokes. It was cool… The next thing, there were more people who liked hearing my jokes and I started getting bigger responses. I like hearing laughter. It’s such a cool feeling to make people you don’t know laugh.
“What I always tell people is that I just want to be in a theatre, and I consider all the people who like my comedy, my friends. So I want my friends to come and I want to perform for them. And, to be honest, I want to perform for free, but you know you have bills to pay, so…”
Asked what the audience could expect of him with Make Salaam and Laugh, he said: “I’m going to bring my good looks.” (He laughs.) “I always tell people I’m a looks-based comedian… But I’m just going to have fun and tell jokes.”
Areff is touring with Strictly Makrooh, which he hopes to bring to Durban later this year.
“I’m planning to tour the show for a while – I may do a name change, it just depends. But I want to try to bring it to Durban before the end of the year and then probably take it to the smaller towns like Rustenburg, Petersburg, Nelspruit… because they love Muslim comedy.”
For now, Durban audiences can enjoy him in Make Salaam and Laugh, in which he performs with Masood Boomgaard. According to a press release, the duo are expected to look at the funny side of being Muslim in South Africa, while delving into everyday issues like the economy, crime, elections, sport and married life.
• Make Salaam and Laugh is at the Coastlands Hotel, Musgrave, on Friday. Tickets: R100. A dinner-show combo for R250 includes a buffet dinner before the show. Book at Shoprite or Computicket.