The Cape Town Comedy Festival (CTCF): preview

Dates: March 1-8, 2020

Venue: Artscape Theatre Centre

Bookings: Webtickets

Tickets: Funny Talks– R30; Dealt –R150-R190; R190-R285 for the other shows

Booking note: Webtickets is the authorised ticket seller. If you land on another ticket site, hop off. No jokes at the prices being cited on other sites.

Festival website:

Programme: see

The Cape Town Comedy Festival is back. Howzat!!!

Fifteen comics are jetting in, from out of South Africa’s borders for The Cape Town International Comedy Festival which is on from March 1 to 8 at Artscape.

Where did this epic scale festival pop up from…read on…

It has been years since Cape Town has been treated to a stand-up comedy festival on this scale, featuring a mega line up of international comics. Yes, local is lekker but it is also fabulous to see international comic-sters on our shores. This festival also features South African comedy stars such as Loyiso Gola, Nik Rabinowitz and Mel Jones. It ticks all the boxes. On top of that, the festival is introducing innovative show formats which include a female showcase, Book Club and a comedy game show.

Regarding, The Cape Town International Comedy Festival, many people have been asking TheCapeRobyn: “Is this the Smirnoff?” To answer that, the genesis of this festival has its roots in The Smirnoff International Comedy Festival which kicked off at the Baxter in 1996. Sam Hendrickse was part of the producing team of that festival which featured a strong international line-up as well as local comics.

Somehow, people still seem to refer to that fest as The Smirnoff Comedy Festival. It shows how the branding has prevailed. Moving along from names, that international comedy festival – with various forms of branding tag lines -ran until 2013.

In the interim, producer Hendrikse presented comedy shows such as Bafunny Bafunny at GrandWest.

It has been seven years, since Hendrikse staged an international comedy festival. Two years ago, he reckoned that it was time to revive an epic scale comedy festival with a strong international component and here it is. It is envisaged that this will be an annual festival. Team Cape Town Comedy Festival has secured Artscape as a venue for the next three years – including this year – 2020. Hendrikse: “For 2020, 2021, 2022, we have secured the venue and have key sponsors on board- which includes the City of Cape Town and Artscape. The festival will be held from March 1, for three years.”

Talking about the 2020 edition of The Cape Town Comedy Festival, Hendrikse says that audiences can expect to be surprised with the offerings. For instance, Bafunny Bafunny which was formerly a comedy showcase will now be “a comedy game show”. More information? We have to come and see what has been cooked up. No comedy spoilers from this man.

The once off Book Club show is a new comedy festival event. According to Hendrikse, the notion of a book club being the domain of women, well that tends to be a peculiarly South African construct. For the most part, around the world, book clubs tend to be gender non-allegiant. One doesn’t often hear of a male only book club in SA. They do exist but women-only book clubs seem to dominate. I have to add, that years ago, my husband joined a male only book club and that drew gasps from people when they heard about his membership. They invariably thought it was hysterical and laughed as if it was the funniest joke. That book club is still on the go, by the way. My husband no longer belongs. He said that that they only talked about books. There was no food or wine but there was beer. We belong to our own book club – of two- and we tend to read books at the same time on our Kindles and discuss them at midnight, in the kitchen, over slices of Camembert cheese, spread with honey or jam. True story.

Anyway, in addition to the female book club being associated with South Africa, apparently, émigrés from our country have transported the women’s only wine swilling book club model to Australia. All over Australia – especially in Perth and Sydney – women’s only book clubs proliferate. This led to conceptualising Book Club for The Cape Town Comedy Festival. The line-up features four international comics and two of our own shtick-sters: Fern Brady (Scotland), Desiree Burch (USA), Laura Davis (Australia) Sindhu Vee (India), Mel Jones (SA), Shimmy Isaacs (SA). Exclusive Books is partnering with the festival. Comedy books will be for sale.

The plan for the festival, going forward is to include multi-genre comedy – magic, family fare, speciality acts and so on. For the 2020 edition, Richard Turner is the festival trickster. In his show, Dealt, he will be dazzlingly audiences with his sleight of hand card tricks. He is legally blind, by the way. Intrigued? Yes, so are we. Go see him deal the cards.

The stand-up comedy scene – then (1996) and now (2020)

Comedy – how we receive and digest it – has come a long way since 1996. When Hendrikse embarked on the comedy journey, he took delivery of comedy clips, on VHS cassette, which arrived in bubble wrapped envelopes. There was no YouTube. That platform was established in 2005, in California.

Now, we tend to watch comedy on mobile devices. We share clips and we often get sound bites from shows. Comedy in a live context is another story. There is the communal laughter and sense of being sharing the laughs with others – delighting in the chortles around you and audience participation. One doesn’t get that watching and flicking through clips. One is passive. In a theatre, there is the thrill of the moment – the surprise – the mirth going in unexpected directions and the pleasure of watching others as they break into peals of laughter.

Comedy is also an arena; a zone, where we learn a lot about each other. People tend to say things that they might not say in another context. It can be illuminating. Looking forward to this super charged festival which offers tremendous variety in terms of varied formats.

Image credit: Desiree Burch (USA) who will be performing at Book Club – one off show on March 4. Pic: supplied.

To break it down:

Gala show opener: Bafunny Bafunny is a gala show on the opening night, Sunday March

Book Club: a once-off event on March 4: Female comics.

Shows on every night – from the Monday of the festival – ie March 2-8:

U.N. Comedy Show – Opera House (no show on March 4)

Danger Zoneno under 18s- Theatre

Dealt: Richard Turner (USA) is on every night from March 2-8, with his show, Dealt. He describes himself as a card mechanic and is renowned for his sleight of hand card tricks. He is legally blind, so yup, this is a sleight of hand artist who despite being visually challenged, confounds people with his artistry and dynamism.

Free events

Comedia – comedy clips-screened on a loop in foyer

Saturday Night Bevermusic, bands -after party on March 8 in the foyer.

The Cape Town Comedy Festival 2020 line-up:

Bafunny Bafunny: Alonzo Bodden USA), Stuart Goldsmith (England), Phil Nicol (Canada), Daliso Chaponda (Malawi), Bongani Dube (SA), Prins(SA), Schalk Bezuidenhout (SA), Tsitsi Chiumya (SA), Mojak Lehoko (SA), Mo Mothebe (SA), Loyiso Gola (SA), Nik Rabinowitz SA). R190 – R285

U.N. Comedy Show: The United Nations of Comedy. Seven comedians, seven countries. Daliso Chaponda (Malawi), Fern Brady (Scotland), Laura Davis (Australia), Nik Rabinowitz (SA), Sindhu Vee (India), Stuart Goldsmith (England), Phil Nichol (Canada). Tickets: R190 – R285

Danger Zone: no under 18s. Alonzo Bodden (USA), Desiree Burch (USA), Fin Taylor (UK), Jeff Innocent (England), Loyiso Gola (SA), Robby Collins (SA), Spencer Jones (England). Tickets: R190 – R285

Dealt: Richard Turner (USA). Tickets: R150 – R190

Book Club: Fern Brady (Scotland), Desiree Burch (USA), Laura Davis (Australia), Sindhu Vee (India), Mel Jones (SA), Shimmy Isaacs (SA). Tickets: R190 – R285

Booking: Webtickets