The biggest independent international comedy festival in Africa, rolls out its third edition with over 40 local, continental and international comedians taking over the Nelson Mandela & The Fringe Theatres at Joburg Theatre in Braamfontein 14 to 17 March.
Dane Baptiste is one of the international headlining acts who will be making the more than 11-hour flight from London to Joburg for the festival. Born in South East London, the comedian, writer and actor first took centre stage in 2014 when he made history by becoming the first black British act nominated for a comedy award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Ahead of my scheduled interview with the British star, I did some extensive research, as any good journalist would. I wanted to get a feel for his work, verify if he deserved that Edinburgh Fringe Festival nomination. What was meant to take a few minutes took an hour after I got stuck in a Dane Baptiste YouTube hole that left my jaw slightly sore from all the laughing.
When we finally connect, Baptiste has no glamorous response when I ask him how his involvement in the festival came about. "So I have met Schalk Bezuidenhout and Loyiso Gola in the past and have stayed connected to them and I have always wanted to perform in Africa, especially South Africa so to be honest when I got wind of JICF I pestered Loyiso and Schalk until they said yes and helped set it up and I can’t tell you how happy I am they said yes," he said.
Although he has never been to South African before, Baptiste says he has an idea of what audiences in Mzansi are like. “I am very good at observing and gauging situations and people and from what I know and have seen, South Africans love to laugh which obviously helps but they also seem very open to discussing current issues like race relations which is the polar opposite in the UK,” said Baptiste.
During an episode of Live at the Apollo, Baptiste started off his performance by saying, "I am happy to be here as apart of helping BBC with their diversity quota”, a although a joke that many laughed at, Baptiste spoke about the struggles of his early days in which black comedian was needed to fit a diversity quota. "That was said as a joke but it was a reality for people of colour there was a real quota system because diversity has been an issue in the UK but we are seeing a lot of changes to that which is great. It’s like my nomination, the validation was great and that was one aspect of it but the doors it opens was what was important especially for people of colour," he said.
On what people can expect, the star of BBC Three’s Sunny D said, "I believe that art should reflect real life and whenever I travel to a different place to perform I make sure my material is global so that people can relate to it. We do live in a time where there are many sensitive topics and that now more than ever we need to be aware of what we say and do but I do think that as comedians we have artistic freedom to speak about whatever we want but that comes with a huge responsibility not to cause any home," he said.
This year the festival will open with a specially curated variety comedy show titled This Is SatAfrika. It will be the only show featured on the opening night of the festival and will consist of sketches, music, and stand-up.
For more information visit visit www.jicf.co.za