Marc Lottering has been doing comedy for close to 20 years.
This comedic luminary, with a disarmingly genuine smile to match his beautiful trademark fro, started his career when the comedy industry was still finding its place in the 'new' South Africa.
He says, “(When I started out) the comedy business was nothing like it is now. You needed to work a lot harder to get a gig. But at the same time, we were a brand new democracy - so it was a truly magical time as far as (engaging) audiences and (developing) material went.”
Talking about the industry today, he says, “Gosh, it’s such a different landscape now. A lot more comedy clubs, with a lot more opportunities for new comics. The business of being a comedian is now seen as a serious career option for many young South Africans, which is a great thing, but (it) also has its drawbacks.
"I sometimes feel that there’s way too much emphasis on the brand and looking cool and way too little time spent on actually coming up with the funny stuff. It’s all about having funny bones. That’s the business.”
Lottering says he ensures he delivers material that connects with audiences, cutting across age, linguistic and cultural barriers.
He explains, “I’m a storyteller. And that’s pretty much been my style from day one. A good funny story is always a good funny story, whether you’re 17 or 70. I’m now finding that my loyal fans are bringing their 18-year-old (children) along with them to the theatre, and that’s simply super special. So I try to ensure that the topics covered have broad appeal.”
“A ‘personal experience’ story is always first prize. People love the truth. And then there’s the observational stuff. One of my favourite pastimes is to watch people. And then share some of that with the audience. We are indeed an entertaining species. Much more entertaining than we think,” he adds.
Lottering has made a name for himself over the years, as he diversified his acts by introducing different characters.
“I created those characters when I started out, amongst them: the crazy cashier, the rock star pastor, the Cape Flats housewife and the taxi dude. These characters are all so very familiar to me and my audiences, and they had loads of stuff to to say back then. Over the past four years or so, I gave the characters a bit of a break, focussing more on my straight stand-up. And I’ve been loving it. The characters may very well re-appear if I feel that there’s something that needs to be said, that only they can say," he explains.
“As far as new characters go, they will get born when the inspiration hits me. And inspiration for me is when, for days on end, I can’t stop thinking about a fascinating person I’ve encountered. A person that makes me smile broadly, that keeps me awake at night, until I put pen to paper and give birth to the character. Interestingly, I’ve now written a musical-comedy around my character Aunty Merle Abrahams. It’s called Aunty Merle, The Musical, featuring 14 actors, original music and a live band, and it will premier at the Baxter Theatre this festive season.”
His latest offering, 'Hashtag Lottering', which has been enjoying sellout performances since last year, is now on its final run.
He says, “I always write about what’s taking over my life at the time. And right now it’s social media. I am devastated if I don’t get enough likes on a pic that I think is fabulous. I am devastated if I wake up in the morning and realise that my phone was not plugged in properly and my battery’s on red. I’m devastated if friends crop me out of a picture and I can still see my fingers on their shoulder. So in 'Hashtag Lottering', I raise some of these traumatising topics, and many more.
“Newer topics also get covered, thanks to living in SA where we constantly have breaking and break-in (hello HAWKS) news.”
Having done 'Loitering in Jozi' (Behind the Name) and hosting season six of 'Strictly Come Dancing', Lottering says he can't confirm if he will return to the TV screen anytime soon.
“Nothing (is) signed and sealed. But I am still intrigued by the medium of television. More people need to be on that box. There are loads of stories to tell. Let’s see!," he said.
As for his interest outside of comedy, Lottering confesses, “I cannot stay away from a good movie. Not restricted to a particular genre - just mad about a brilliant script and superb acting. I also totally enjoy hanging out at sexy restaurants with good friends. Asian food makes me go weak at the knees. In a good way.”
How does he spend his Sundays when he isn’t tickling the funny bone?
He says, “Two words that I take kindly to on a Sunday afternoon are: Sauvignon Blanc. It helps to get me through the Sunday papers.... just about.”
'Hashtag Lottering' opens at Montecasino on August 16.