Towering above the average

2011-02-19 14:35

Stand-up comedy is a zero-sum game. As Rob van Vuuren says: “You’re either ­funny or you are not.”

So in this game, it’s a matter of pass or fail.

But there are degrees of success and ­failure.

There’s the fail, and then there’s the wear-a-paper-bag-over-your-head-for-the-rest-of-your-life fail.

There’s funny, and then there’s tears-streaming-down-your-cheeks funny. Rob is the latter.

There are a couple of things that put him head-and-shoulders above other ­comics on the South African circuit – and it’s ­definitely not his physical height.

For starters, he is an accomplished mime.

Van Vuuren can mime a plane crash convincingly.

He can turn himself into a cat, a dog, a toenail, you name it.

This gives him a huge advantage over his contemporaries, most of whom have only wit and facial expressions at their command.

Van Vuuren has both in buckets and then throws his physicality in as a third dimension.

His other asset is his vulnerability.

Many stand-up comics deal with the ­terror of standing alone on stage trying to make a crowd laugh by erecting a defensive barrier of sarcasm, controversy, ­misogyny and sometimes downright bullying between themselves and the audience.

It’s hard enough getting people to laugh at externalities such as shopping or driving or politicians.

Van Vuuren does this, and he goes a step further by inviting the ­audience to also laugh at him.

Having won Strictly Come Dancing and being a very public performer Van Vuuren is, for better or worse, a South African celebrity.

Hence, I wondered how long it would take before people started asking questions about his and his wife’s recent adoption of a baby girl.

In his latest show, Unplugged and ­Unhinged, he beats the gossips to it.

Not ­only did he introduce us to his wife ­Danni?and?new?baby?Bijou,?who?were?in?the audience, he gave us a full-length, graphic and hilarious explanation as to why they chose to adopt: His zero sperm count.

This is great comic material to delve ­into, especially for men, and the funny factor is doubled, with any offence annihilated because the comic is talking about himself.

It’s a closed loop when a mime mimes himself, and the audience is inside the circle. But beware, his spare-no-secrets ­approach can also be turned on us ­unwitting spectators.

Everyone is bait in this game of kiss-and-tell.

However, while Van Vuuren is quite ­capable of being crude and rude, he is not malicious.

He’s actually a nice guy.

Unhinged and Unplugged is an experimental show, Van Vuuren’s stated aim is to use the four Sundays on which the show runs to develop material and test new ideas, and he invites the audience to give him feedback ­afterwards.

It’s not all about his personal life, though. He does a brilliant job simply “talking kak” and expanding it into ­fantastical situations.

This is where his gift for mime comes into its own. He had us doubled over laughing as he became an overgrown toenail attempting to ­hijack a plane.

It is testament to his abilities that he can stand on stage with no props, beside a chair he doesn’t use and a forgotten half-full bottle of beer, yet keep an audience laughing for 90 minutes while he ­essentially workshops a new show. – West Cape News

» Rob van Vuuren’s Unplugged and Unhinged is on today and next Sunday at The Kalk Bay ­Theatre in Cape Town. 0?073 220 5430 or visit

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