Comedy review:  POPArt presents pilot of A South African Sketch Show [SASS], online live, March 2021

The pilot of A South African Sketch Show (SASS), presented by POPArt, went out live, online tonight, March 24, 2021. I LOVED SASS. It reminds me of the impeccably crafted sketch comedy by improv maestros Mike Nichols and Elaine May. They did the famous ‘mother and son’ skit. Google it. I will tell you why the SASS pilot, pinged for me in terms of Nichols and May.  Keep reading. But first, alert: The recording of the SASS pilot will be available for 48 hours on POPArt digital channels. Buy your R50 ticket at or contact POPArt’s Hayleigh Evans on e-mail and she will sort you out.

The SASS pilot is an experiment, flighted by POPArt, during this horrible pandemic. Live performance has been for the most part, been halted. Creatives have embraced the digital stage. SASS is offering an alternative solo comedy format to the usual online stand-up spiel: Comic does shtick; maybe a couple of props, a guest artist, DJ, rapper and that is it. We see comics live in the Zoom room, in front of a bookcase [always a bookcase] and variations arouns that.  The SASS format is a concept sketch show with multiple artists in the line-up. During Covid, they are being filmed from their own homes or rather being self-taped into the feed. Let’s not get caught up in the technical aspects. What is evident from the first scene in the SASS pilot is the work that has gone into the script, situations, props. This brings me back to Mike Nichols and Elaine May. Each sketch was constructed – dialogue, props, design; timing. Craft has been lost in a lot of solo stand-up comedy, on stage. Observational comedy tends to goes on and on. Post pandemic, I am bracing myself for rants about the distance schooling the kids, during Covid; spooling out, without direction and concept.

The SASS pilot has directors at the helm: Hayleigh Evans, Clara Vaughan, Jess Taylor, Toni Morkel and Chloe Coetzee. There is design: Shruthi Nair, Zanele Mthombeni and Hira Lodhi and graphics: Love Jozi and Emil Lars. Performers may be in their online camera bubbles but they are linked by design elements such as fairy lights. They are apart but together. Split screens and multiple screens are used dynamically to visually heighten the drama and comedy in sketches. I can imagine that improv was involved in putting the sketches together but as Nichols and May did, a great deal of work went into direction and design. The team pulled it together and went out live – to a virtual audience – chirping along through the comments bar. This is the virtual equivalent of heckling – but in a good way. The material is sassy, droll and relatable– online ordering -trying to log in complaints about the eco-unfriendly packaging; vegetarian options NEVER being available, online dating; cooking with bizarre combos. I think that SASS has comedy legs – as an online series – and as on-stage show. SASS has a terrific energy and a hipster aesthetic- sketch comedy for a millennial audience. Impressive writing, fabulous theatre makers making mirth. They are brilliant actors. Check out their expressions in the screenshot on this review- featured image. Hilarious.

Screenshot. © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen.
What: POPArt presents pilot of A South African Sketch Show [SASS], online live, March 24, 2021

Writer / Performers:

Lisa Derryn Overy, Phillip Dikotla, Chris Djuma, Hayleigh Evans, Martin Grendele, Hira Lodhi, Toni Morkel, Ncumisa Ndimeni, Racheal Neary, Jessica Taylor and Clara Vaughan 

With direction: from Hayleigh Evans, Clara Vaughan, Jess Taylor, Toni Morkel and Chloe Coetzee 
Graphics: Love Jozi and Emil Lars
Designers: Shruthi Nair, Zanele Mthombeni and Hira Lodhi
Produced by POPArt Productions   

❇ Image credit: © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen.