Comedian ditches race jokes, turns to green issues
(This article was published in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper in the Western Cape province, South Africa, on March 20 2016.)
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
Racial stereotypes often dominate comedy shows, seconded by stabs at politicians, but likely won’t feature when a local comedian abandons these overdone one-liners.
Cape Town-based comedian Nik Rabinowitz believes South Africans “don’t find that stuff funny anymore” when it comes to racial issues, which have in recent months taken centre stage in national debates.
His new show, Power Struggle, will instead focus on environmental issues.
“It’s the story of power through the ages. Not political power,” says Rabinowitz.
“I’ve put a lot of energy into political power. Now I’m putting my energy into energy.”
Rabinowitz has collaborated with a host of writers on the show’s script.
Power Struggle producer Sam Hendrikse has meanwhile connected the comedian with New York-based theatre director Daniel Kutner.
Rabinowitz says working with Kutner is a chance to “stretch” himself.
“I’ve been wanting for a while to add an international dimension to my stuff, which has been local,” he says.
Their intention is to produce a show that can travel beyond South African borders. It’s bound to also get audiences thinking about the environment.
“We get into buzzwords. What is global warming? Is that just a fancy name for summer?” says Rabinowitz.
“Ice caps are melting, polar bears are drowning, bees are dying. There’s all this stuff and a low level of anxiety.
“The idea was to create a show that looks at these issues but is also renewable energy. We want to promote these ways of using energy.
“I talk about all these things. I’ve done a lot of research on this show, on Wikipedia.”
For Kutner, this is the first comedy show he is directing. He explains the show is about a father thinking about the future of his child.
“This conversation about power starts with Nik being alone with his infant daughter for the first time when his wife goes to the book club,” says Kutner.
“There’s anxiety festering in him and he wonders what type of world his daughter would inherit.”
Hendrikse says he saw Rabinowitz a few years ago and now working with him wanted to “push it further”.
Hendrikse says he wanted to do something different, as since the start of democracy in 1994 the country’s comedic “content has always been the same”.
“It’s been race and do we need to have another show about how different we are?” asks Henrikse.
“I think most South African comedy is crap. It just reinforces stereotypes and issues we are trying to get past. This show is about bigger things.
“We live in a country where there’s load shedding, climate change, drought. If you are a parent these are things that are important to you. You are considering more than just yourself.”
Hendrikse says they want to take their show global too.
“We want to be in Japan, New Yorn and London,” he says.
Power Struggle runs at the Baxter Theatre from March 29 to April 16.