Funny Festival Celebrates Its 15th Anniversary
That the Jive Cape Town Funny Festival is celebrating a fifteen year milestone is noteworthy. However, the real success is that it plays to absolutely full houses night after night for a month in mid-Winter. That’s Eddy Cassar’s rare talent. How is it that he presses a community’s funny bone with just the right feel? There are multiple reasons.
“Laughter”, says the aptly named Dr Annette Goodheart, “is a natural and innate way of achieving connections, clarity, health, harmony and lightness by rebalancing the chemistry of tension, stress and pain – and having fun doing it”. How valuable is laughter in dealing with modern life and what a critical tool it is to say things that simply can’t be said seriously without offense.
Comics approach South Africa’s daily diversity as a resource and Cape Town’s wonderfully colourful uniqueness as the richest resource by far. The Jive Cape Town Funny Festival just makes so much sense. The City’s people obviously agree.
Cassar trusts his own taste on what touches the audience nerve. He is not bound by rules of a particular genre. He compiles a varied mix of stand up, street performers, specialty acts and even circus artists all with the ability to transport that full house to a happy place. He works literally years in advance sourcing his talent at festivals as far flung as the UK, Europe and Australia.
Hugely respected by a global circuit of comics and agents, Cassar has served as a judge at festivals internationally and has also been invited to lecture on sponsorship in the arts at Adelaide in South Australia. That reputation in the trade is vital resulting in the world’s top artists not only signing but queueing to sign.
A publicist by trade, Cassar sells Cape Town to performers who, by word of mouth within the trade, are attracted to the sincere South African hospitality he offers with the support of sponsors who know, respect and appreciate the winning package he provides. Cassar testifies that his comics arrive in the City as performers and leave as friends and ambassadors often destined to return to the Baxter stage.
The Funny Festival is not easily replicable. It bears the trademarks of Cassar’s strengths: a distinctive offering built up over the years with huge commitment and attention to detail, made to fit win-win sponsors whose investment is integrated and justified and a loyal audience base who trust the brand to provide a clean, fresh and varied world class entertainment mix.
Cassar’s experience in publicizing or organising major events such as the Cape Town Cycle Tour Expo, the J&B Met, the Gun Run and the opening ceremony of the 2003 Cricket World Cup among many other popular events, make him the perfect person not only to put a month long Festival together but to understand the local audience.
Corporates and loyal patrons book months in advance. His contract with his comics also ensures a festival which appeals to family audiences – a key factor in ensuring quality entertainment and full houses.
Huge Cape Town personalities Marc Lottering and Alan Committie are the modern face of the festival which has featured artists who have gone on to become world renowned international performers. Trevor Noah remembers the Jive Cape Town Funny Festival fondly. His first appearance was in 2009 and his last as recent as 2015.
Julia Morris, who starred in the first of the fifteen festivals, is a huge celebrity and TV host in her native Australia. Jimmy Carr, Lee Mack and Ross Noble were just starting out when they were lured to Cape Town to perform in Cassar’s shows prior to the Funny Festival. Kev Orkian, a festival favourite, has been instrumental in growing the festival’s reputation internationally.
Riaad Moosa appeared at the first one in 2005 and has returned four times. Other household names in local comedy who are festival veterans include Tumi Morake, Nik Rabinowitz, Schalk Bezuidenhout, Kurt Schoonraad, Stuart Taylor, Ndumiso Lindi, Mel Jones, Carl Wastie and Siv Ngesi amongst many others.
Cassar has always provided young hopefuls with a platform. His festival includes development initiatives which allow novices in the Townships and on the Cape Flats to earn a newcomer slot on a national stage.
Also a feature of his style is the invitation he offers to carefully chosen charities to partner with the festival. Cassar’s experience, sincerity and entrepreneurial insight are clearly demonstrated by the selection of perfect fits like Operation Smile, which literally changes lives and helps children in need with facial abnormalities like cleft palates. Smiles allround.
Cassar is a vocal and practical supporter of live theatre. He believes that, as a community, we have a duty to keep the City’s theatres, across all genres, alive, full and relevant. He attends shows every week and urges his digital community to make the effort to attend.
Loyalty is key to all he does. His professional, media and technical partners are longtimers whose expertise and reliability make for a standard which does justice to top local and international performers and an equally loyal nightly clientele.
Perhaps his greatest strength is the ability he has to create a product which persuades sponsors to invest in the Arts. Jive is the Festival’s name sponsor. The company’s name fits like a glove and its desire to align itself with Cape Town, with clean fun and with good times is a lesson in corporate marketing.
The idea that Turkish Airlines ‘delivers’ the Festival is not only accurate as the comics fly to the City via Istanbul, but the concept exudes a partnership which works. The New Kings Hotel, Craft Burger Bar, Canal Walk and many others are fun establishments which simply love having the comics as patrons. The Cape Argus and Heart FM love to get Cape Town laughing and talking.
That the City of Cape Town buys into the project is a wonderful tribute to a man who has always added value (and humour) to the birthplace he has served with distinction. His wife Jane, a talented and experienced PR specialist in her own right, has provided indispensable structure, logistics, discipline and insight to the process from day one. What could be more fulfilling in the world of entertainment than a full theatre and broad smiles.