THE popular “uncles”, Peru and Bala, kick off their highly anticipated Peru and Bala Farewell Tour in Durban this week, before touring the rest of the country.

The tour promises fans a mix of its usual on-stage comedy riot with many surprises, as Vikash Mathura and Ray Maharaj (the men behind the alter egos) retire from their radio entertainment career. The pair had a mass following for their Lotus FM Week End Lift Off show every Saturday, drawing listeners from more than 40 countries.

In an interview with Tonight, Mathura and Maharaj said what started out as a once-off radio appearance of the uncles snow- balled into what is today the massive Peru and Bala brand.

“The characters were influenced by two of our colleagues, who were then also working in radio, Devi Sankaree Govender and Krijay Govender. At that time we were presenting the AM Show on Lotus and within that they had a section about two old women (alter egos) who complained about their husbands, so Ray and I decided to come up with tongue-in-check characters to rebut these women, as the women’s husbands.”

It was meant to be just for a week, but a week became a month and a month a year – and the rest is history,” explained Mathura.

Maharaj said they never anticipated the characters would be so popular until they first took the radio show to stage in 1999 at what was then the Village Green in Durban. “From that show, 17 years later, we have held a growing audience,” he said.

The duo’s careers include a host of achievements in radio and with their characters, Peru and Bala, including two best-selling CDs in 2005 and 2007; a best-selling book, published in 2006; a cartoon strip featuring Peru and Bala was published for seven years by Post newspaper, with cartoons of the pair distributed virally around the world; and they have performed on stage to more than 3.5 million fans in 17 years, including performing to a record 42 000 people in 2003.

“From radio to cartoon strips to DVDs… We’re probably the only radio show to release on so many platforms,” said Maharaj.

They are both retiring from radio, with Maharaj having 19 years of radio experience under his belt and Mathura a whopping 22 years. Offering a parting word to their fans, Mathura said: “I think people should pursue their passion regardless of the odds stacked against them. Go out there and be yourself, nothing can be cooler than being yourself.”

Maharaj added: “It’s been a memorable journey. The show has brought a smile to the faces of listeners around the world. Our ambition has been to bring a spring to their step and put a smile on their face.”

The tour is set to be a blast, with every other character performed by the radio duo also coming to stage. First up is Sibaya Casino in Durban for three shows from July 4-7. It then moves to Port Elizabeth’s Boardwalk Casino on July 11, before entertaining fans in East London’s Hemingways Casino on July 12. The July schedule ends with two shows hosted at the magnificent Lyric Theatre in Gold Reef City (Joburg) on July 26.

Another seven shows are scheduled around the country in August. The tour moves to Graceland Casino in Secunda on August 2, the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town on August 9, two shows at Umfolozi Casino in Empangeni on August 16, with another two shows at Golden Horse Casino in Pietermaritz-burg on August 17. Fans in Lenasia can then enjoy the comic antics of these legendary entertainers in the Gandhi Hall on August 23. Emperors Palace Casino in Joburg hosts the gig on October 10, before the two-show Grand Finale at the Lyric Theatre in Gauteng on November 29.

• Bookings via Computicket.