‘Mighty’ seems a pretty apt term to describe Pierre Novellie. The South African, much of whose comedy concerns his similarity to a giant, is a force to be reckoned with. Despite having physically shrunk since his graduation from the Cambridge comedy circuit, his comedy has grown.
Novellie’s skill is in making the inoffensive offensive.
The show gets off to a slow start. Novellie’s heart doesn’t seem in it. The length of jokes seems disproportionate to their payoff, at their worst bordering on shaggy dog stories. Thankfully it appears this slow start is more of a warm-up, as the show quickly begins to pick up the pace, the jokes becoming funnier, sharper, occasionally crueller. Material familiar from past shows is refreshed by elaboration, taken to its logical comic conclusion.
It’s rare for a comic not to exploit their own comedic value. They are their own best sitting duck. Novellie’s rare ability, however, is to push self-mockery (particularly his stuff about South African racism) to its limit. To make his audience’s polite sensibilities go into spasm at jokes he is qualified to make, but are political correctness deathtraps to laugh at.
Despite his self-fashioned friendly giant image, Pierre Novellie is at his funniest when he’s playing bad, rather than good cop. This became increasingly the case towards the end of the show, as Novellie got into his stride with some strong material on that richest of comic goldmines: healthfoods. And as we are told to ‘Fuck off and eat some Ryvita’, it transpires that Novellie’s skill is in making the inoffensive offensive.
Unsurprisingly, Novellie explicitly defines himself in opposition to broad observational comedians of the McIntyre variety. The essential difference is risk: Novellie is at his strongest when the stakes are highest, the consequences of silence most galling. Yet when the punchlines swing in his favour, the laughter they elicit sits somewhere between hysteria and a health and safety hazard.