Yaaseen Barnes: Prince of the One-Liner

2014-07-22 19:00

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There’s a new Muslim comic star on the rise. His name is Yaaseen Barnes. Percy Mabandu gives him a ring

Stand-up comedian Yaaseen Barnes is being pegged as “the new king of one-liners”.

When I called him up, I expected a brash, lively voice to come over the line from Cape Town, but the 27-year-old from Athlone is soft-spoken and borderline shy.

His bashfulness is particularly pronounced when I ask him about being a rising star while living as a young Muslim in a changing Cape Town.

It was in late 2012 when Barnes was cracking his friends up with one-liners on Twitter, and growing his followers in the process.

“My friends started asking me to do my jokes on stage.

So I entered the Joker’s Comedy Championship at the Florentine in Observatory. I won. It was amazing,” he says.

This was followed by a debut gig at Jou Ma Se Comedy Club.

Just as he was starting out, another Cape Town-based comedian, Rustum August, died.

Barnes would end up be compared to him. August had made a name for himself as the genius of the one-liner.

“It was like I was his reincarnation or something. They said I’m just like him. The big guys then took me under their wings.”

Ever since, he has been included on line-up after line-up.

At home, Barnes started missing family gatherings and events, a taboo in the close-knit Muslim community.

His parents have since learnt to accept that it’s with good reason – he is building himself a career.

Barnes is wary of being branded a Muslim comedian, though. “Yes, I’m Muslim and I’m a comedian.

But I’m not a Muslim comedian.

I like to separate my religion from my work.

I just want to tell jokes and be universally funny,” he says.

But Barnes’ attempt to separate God and jokes is made difficult by his comic forbears.

Hot acts like Joey Rasdien and Riaad Moosa and rising stars like Simmi Areff often tailor their material for a growing Muslim audience.

Only time will tell who the real Barnes is without needing to compare him to others.

Four best Barnes gags

There’s a few things that’s a mess in my life. They are my hair, my handwriting and a knife in Afrikaans.

I was watching the Brazil game last night. The worst thing about the highlights is that they were in Neymar’s hair.

I was at the mall recently. I saw a sign that said ‘wet floor’. So I did.

I used to surf. Now I skip. Talking about washing powder.

» See Barnes in Divine Live at The Lyric. Presented by Comedy Central, the show will be hosted by Gareth Cliff. It takes place at The Lyric theatre in Joburg on September 12 and 13. The TV special will be aired on Comedy Central in November.

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