It’s always a fascinating experience to see an international comedian performing in London. Although stand-up is becoming much more diverse in terms of the range of acts you can see, London and New York remain the international capitals, the place where the best in the business come to test their mettle. The Soho Theatre is particularly good at showcasing comedians from around the world with the likes of Hans Teeuwen and Aamer Rahman performing here.
Now it is the turn of Loyiso Gola, one of the most popular comedians in South Africa, a man who has performed several stand-up shows and is the creator and anchor of Late Nite News with Loyiso Gola, a prominent satirical show in his native country.
He has a very easygoing and laidback style, covering topics such as the difficulty in navigating the problems of understanding his native language of Xhosa and the reaction he gets in the Netherlands when speaking Aafrikans, which he describes as “Shakespeare Dutch”. Although an established satirist in South Africa, he mostly stays clear of references to his native country, only briefly touching on Jacob Zuma, the president giggling whilst the economy tanks. There is also his take on the popular TV show Mythbusters, and the story behind how he got thrown off the South African version of Celebrity Masterchef.
The problem with the show is that subjects are briefly touched on before Gola moves onto the next topic. He has a fascinating background and lived through a period of great change within the country, straddling the time between the existence and the end of apartheid. Apart from a story concerning his time at an Muslim school, it is hard to discern Gola’s world point of view and the basis for his humour. Things almost start to get interesting when he looks at the effects of colonisation on his country and the sparring between European countries fighting over gold and diamonds. But again, this is quickly passed over and it is on to the next topic.
Given this is Gola’s first big show in London, it makes sense that this is more of a gentle introduction to him and his sense of humour. But I did find myself wanting him to cut loose and take more risks. London audiences are exceptionally hard to please and in his debut show, Gola gets consistent and huge laughs from this crowd. But they are also curious and eager to listen to people with a point of view and background radically different from their own.
Loyiso Gola: Tall Tales runs until 21 November at:
21 Dean Theatre