Comedy and circus have been life-long interests for Camps Bay resident, Eddy Cassar, which led him to organise the country’s first comedy festival way back in 1997. Now a quarter of a century later, he stands on the brink of organising his 25th major comedy festival – twenty one at the Baxter Theatre, two at the Wimbledon Theatre in London and another two on the West End.
“The Jive Cape Town Funny Festival, which runs at the Baxter Theatre from 6 June to 3 July, marks a celebration of sorts,” says Cassar. “It’s been a long and interesting road, along which I have seen some young local performers become super stars in the industry. Marc Lottering, Riaad Moosa, Nik Rabinowitz, Kurt Schoonraad, Tumi Morake, Ndumiso Lindi, Stuart Taylor, Loyiso Gola and Conrad Koch have all cut their teeth on the Festival, as has Trevor Noah!
“I would fly Trevor to Cape Town in the early 2000 to perform free lunch time shows on local campuses at UCT, US and CPUT. He was a young DJ at the time who worked the graveyard shift from 02h00 – 06h00 on YFM in Johannesburg. I would collect him at the airport, go and do three consecutive shows on different campuses and then deliver him back at the airport. He was a hard worker, hugely disciplined and very funny. One could see he was destined for greater things.”
Eddy’s career in comedy started with The Smirnoff Comedy Festival, the first of its type in the country. It was Mark Banks who prompted the idea of showcasing this new art form collectively on a stage.
“I presented the concept to Smirnoff and they were intrigued and allowed me to take them on a journey for the next couple of years. The project was a hit.
“Smirnoff moved on and I decided to change the concept, marrying variety acts with stand-up comedians in a glittering gala showcase. The name change from comedy to funny was also strategic, and designed to make the art form more acceptable to the entire family. What followed was the relationship with Jive, the cold drinks people and its owner Sharief Parker of Rondebosch. The relationship is now twelve years old, a sort of record for sponsorship in the theatre industry.
“I still travel to some of the global theatre festivals, scouting for novel acts. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the largest in the world, is hugely daunting. It presents over 3 400 shows a day for an entire month! It was certainly a sharp learning curve.
“The Adelaide Fringe Festival was an eye-opener to see how a small city like Adelaide, gets behind the Festival. Another beautiful festival was The Linz Street Performers Festival, a street trade show, where theme parks, shopping centres and cruise liners search to purchase new entertainment. I have always had huge respect for street performers. They have the innate skill of knowing exactly how to command an audience.”
The Jive Cape Town Funny Festival has grown into this month-long celebration of humour in the city’s Winter. It has become Cape Town’s Winter comedic tonic and certainly, after a two-year Covid break, the city is in dire need of some wholesome laughter.
The Jive Cape Town Funny Festival presents acts from Montreal, Osaka and London, together with some of the South Africa’s top stand-up comedians. Tickets are available through Webtickets and there are generous discounts for group tickets of over ten.