They keep us in stitches all year long, but the South African comedians are not joking when they talk about the first Comics Choice Awards which will be held on Saturday.

More than 100 local comics registered to be considered for this prestigious event.

“I am amazed by the overwhelming response that we got from the comedians since this is only our first year,” said comedian John Vlismas, who is also the brains behind the awards ceremony.

“We have a wide range of comics willing to give this ceremony a chance. We have the youngest unknown guy from a small club somewhere in Cape Town to the oldest legends who have been doing this job for over 25 years. This shows that the industry is growing. It is cracking, yes, but cracks on an egg mean growth,” he continued.

Held in Montecasino, Fourways, Joburg, the first annual SA Comics Choice Awards will honour the nominees who were selected by their fellow comedians.

“Some guy might be unknown to the general South African public yet he is doing great in the small gigs around his area.

“One of our established comedians is most probably going to know about him and these awards give him the recognition he deserves,” explained Vlismas.

But if the comedians select each other won’t we see those with commercial success dominating the awards? No, seriously, think of a comedian. Now think whether you have seen them more often live on stage or whether you just remember their commercials across various media?

Vlismas disagrees.

“We are not fazed by the commercial success. We are here to honour the body of work one has done for comedy. We all are in this business so we know each other well; we realise talent beyond everything else.”

When you win an Oscar, you get the golden man statuette and at the Grammys, you usually win a trophy of a gramophone and at the Comic Choice Awards they have what they call the Waldo.

“I have always liked that name. The Waldo is a statue of a person standing smiling with a decapitated head in his hands. It will be made of chrome and bronze. We will also have white gold rings made by Orpheo Twins in Hyde Park.

“The rings will be named The Charles, after the great Charlie Chaplin,” explained Vlismas.

For a person who has travelled the world, Vlismas feels South African comedy is competitive on a worldwide scale and that these awards are long overdue.

“Whenever I am abroad watching other acts there, I realise that I am proud to be South African. People often get it wrong (because) we are not inferior.

“South African audiences are very open-minded, which gives us a lot of room to be creative.”

The highlight of the night is going to be the part where the guest of honour, the grandfather of comedy, Al Debbo, receives a Lifetime Achievement award from another legend, Leon Schuster.

“When any of the nominees are announced as winners, instead of giving speeches like winners do in other award ceremonies, these comedians perform for a few minutes,” Vlismas concluded.