Schalk Bezuidenhout steps out dressed like an East London hipster, all bright, quirky knits, socks printed with bananas and a distinguishable moustache and hairstyle. His look would imply that maybe we’re in for 40 minutes of millennial-observation, quips about being hipster but it couldn’t be further from this. I’ll say from the get-go; this is not a show for the easily offended, or, as some would say ‘snowflakes.’
I have no doubt that he’ll be going places.
Bezuidenhout is a white South African Afrikaans-speaker, and as he points out from the beginning, white South Africans are well-known for two reasons: Apartheid and racism. We cover both in this performance, and whilst Bezuidenhout does well poking fun at his upbringing and the world he was brought into in a post-Apartheid South Africa, some of his jokes don’t settle well and cause a couple of sharp intakes of breath and nervous laughs.
Bezuidenhout takes us through his love for the Scottish accent, and reminisces some-what fondly on his school days where he was seen as a bit of a “culture nerd” rather than a rugby or cricket jock. Bezuidenhout’s recollections of his South African school are told with charisma, heart and humour – his anecdotal storytelling is certainly his strongest point and the audience bubbles with laughter throughout the entire performance. Even when jokes don’t land with the audience – and they certainly don’t all land – his outgoing and friendly persona carries him.
The performance relies heavily, of course, on life in South Africa, and perhaps it’s a difference in culture, but some of Bezuidenhout’s observations on life, values and people in his home-country straddle the very thin line between funny and outright offensive. Whilst I enjoy dark humour, Bezuidenhout hasn’t quite refined the art of Frankie-Boyle-esque brutal, gloves-off comedy that British audiences are familiar with. Sometimes the material doesn’t quite settle right with the audience, making you feel uncomfortable. Bezuidenhout picks out the taboo topics and jokes that others steer clear of, and sometimes I’m just not sure if the joke is actually funny, or Bezuidenhout is just being very charismatic.
In South Africa, Bezuidenhout is a big name in comedy, he tells us that he’s played shows for hundreds, he was Trevor Noah’s support act for his South African tour and he’s also won the SA Comic’s Choice Award twice. This is a young comedian with an impressive CV and I have no doubt that he’ll be going places. However, whilst his stand-up may be a huge hit over the pond in South Africa, he will require a slightly more finessed and refined approach first before he breaks the UK. Those who are a fan of the offensive, controversial and sometimes uncomfortable stand-up will find the up-and-coming Bezuidenhout a real treat.