Sunday, March 10, 2019

TV CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK. Comedy Central Africa's Roast is good - but the series is at risk of a growing 'fame whore' problem, one that threatens the quality of the comedy.

The inclusion of not-really-knowns within comedy and fame-seeking "fame whores" who are not funny and who are not comedians, is a growing problem that has the potential to damage the quality of the comedy of Comedy Central Africa's localised Comedy Central Roast of ... franchise.

The Comedy Central Roast of AKA that will be broadcast on Comedy Central (DStv 122) on Monday, 11 March at 21:00 with the uncensored version on Showmax from 12 March is good ... enough.

But it's not excellent. It's not great. And it's not must-watch television.

The reason is the courting of flat panellists who flat-out bombed because they're not comedians, yet try to do stand-up, practising bad routines and bad delivery on the audience's precious time. It' doesn't and shouldn't work that way.

The Comedy Central Roast of AKA on Comedy Central is literally saved by one person - Joey Rasdien. The comedian, as the only real stand-up comedian included in the roast panel, single-handedly saves the show with his performance.

Joey Rasdien is the reason to watch the Comedy Central Roast of AKA. He did extremely well and as a comedian hit all of the right pauses, with the right tempo and comedic timing, really funny jokes, clever and quick ad-libbing, and completely shined during his turn.

Roastmaster Pearl Thusi was the second best element of the night and clearly prepared. She starts off good and slightly above average but can't sustain the night as the master of ceremonies. It's not her fault, this is her first time doing something like it and she did well enough for a passable grade.

It takes practice and about halfway through you can feel and see Pearl Thusi's energy-levels fizz out. Stand-up comedy is a marathon performance that people don't realise before they don't do it themselves.

The Comedy Central Roast of AKA is fine to watch for viewers who are into roasts and it has some really funny jokes, put-downs and moments.

The big issue is the panellists who were included because they're after fame and exposure but who are not funny. They were clearly not tested beforehand or Papa Penny and others would have been gone. They actively bring down the overall quality of the show and the (lack of ) comedy, as they bomb out during the night.

Papa Penny was an utter embarrassment and cringe-worthy terrible.

He is not a comedian and struggles to speak English (not a problem per se but a big problem if you're trying to do comedy in front of a live crowd who has to understand you if they're too laugh).

His set was highly embarrassing and producers would definitely have struggled to salvage anything worthwhile from his on-stage mess to include in the Comedy Central Roast of AKA.

Second worst was Nigeria's Davido whose misguided and bizarre form of stand-up comedy was to attack and insult the South African audience in the theatre.

It wasn't funny and didn't go down well.

Moshe Ndiki, Moonchild Sanelly, Mark Fish and Francois van Coke were all flat.

Nina Hastie with a level of presenting experience was okay-ish.

The panel of roasters wasn't really well-customised for AKA whose real name is Kiernan Forbes.

They came across as unfunny people, trying to relate (to him), with a lot of generalised jokes that felt as if it was forced to be applicable to him, and not really knowing how to properly engage a live, seated audience when it comes to telling jokes.

Attending the recording of the Comedy Central Roast of AKA was fun, and fun enough. The issue is that it could be funnier. A lot more funnier.

Indicative of how random and ill-chosen the panellists were, is how they don't/didn't even really all knew each other, and haven't even met before they met backstage. They don't know and struggle to say each others' names properly, and work in as part of their comedy-schtick things like "I don't even know who you are". Problem.

Papa Penny, Davido, Mark Fish, Moshe Ndiki, Moonchild Sanelly and Francois van Coke were not good. They're also not comedians. So why did they say yes to do this?

Because they want to level up in the fame-stakes and because being part of a Comedy Central Roast is exposure like being a dancer in Strictly Come Dancing. That is how it comes across.

Thank goodness the Afrikaans actor Pierre van Pletzen abruptly dropped out beforehand. How on earth does he relate to AKA, and how is he funny as a standup comedian?

For future Comedy Central Roasts Viacom Africa should really either plan and strategise further ahead, or if it's already doing that, be more judicious about who to include and search and work harder on adding real local comedians, with real stand-up comedy pedigree and a proven comedy track-record.

Again, if it wasn't for Joey Rasdien, the Comedy Central Roast of AKA would have been very different (certifiably bad). Joey, who won the night, singlehandedly as the most-valuable player, manages to elevate it to a "good-to-go" level.

Fame whores who are not funny and who don't know how to do stand-up, risk diluting and damaging the image that viewers have of what a Comedy Central Roast of ... is and should be.

The roast was sold out which is great. It's however important for Viacom Africa and Comedy Central to keep working and to keep cultivating the Roast image as a sought-after, premium entertainment event or a night out.

When people who attend, and those who watch, however, start telling others that it wasn't worthwhile because Papa Penny, Mark Fish, a Francois van Coke and a Moonchild were not funny, it has the potential to weaken Africa's version of Comedy Central Roasts.

The Comedy Central Roast of ... doesn't exist to bring more fame and to elevate the stature of D-, C- and B-grade celebrities. It exists for the audience. The viewer is who matters, and who matters most.

Panellist for future roasts on Comedy Central should be chosen not because they're merely willing and available and thirst for fame, but because they're good - good at comedy and doing stand-up.

ALSO READ: IN IMAGES. 25 photos from behind-the-scenes of Comedy Central and Showmax's Comedy Central Roast of AKA
ALSO READ: TV CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK. 'Yes, we can!' Viacom Africa's well-organised, well-managed Comedy Central Roast of AKA red carpet run shows that South Africa can get it right with proper pre-planning and know-how.