Putting laughter into law

2018-07-17 06:00
Barry Varkel.

Barry Varkel.

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Camps Bay author Barry Varkel has channelled his years as a lawyer, often dealing with weird and wacky cases, into a novel­.

The comedian’s book, Nigiri Law, is based on a “very weird divorce case”.

“One Saturday morning, while trying to relax with a bottle of prescription medication after a gruelling week of fighting the good fight against the forces of litigation evil, on behalf of my numerous insane clients, I started playing around with the idea in my head of perhaps writing a stand-up comedy piece about a very weird divorce case.

“I started banging away at the computer keyboard when the pills ran out, and it kind of took flight from there. I sent some of the initial work to a lawyer mate who seemed to enjoy it. It was then that I realised it was very much more a narrative piece than a stand-up comedy piece.

“It was only ever meant to be a short story, never a short novel.”

The book was sparked by a case Varkel was involved in, “with a client who couldn’t really speak much English”.

“The story is a massive send-up of the fallibility of the human condition when it comes to romantic relationships, the imperfection of the legal system and the genuine insanity of the lawyers and judges who participate in it,” says the 46-year-old.

“The genesis of the storyline for Nigiri Law came about as a result of a very weird divorce case I was involved in. Many a time after seeing the client, I would think to myself: ‘This is really funny stuff, well to me at least’.”

It’s this sense of humour that has seen Varkel embracing comedy.

“I closed down my first law firm in 2009 and took a round-the-world trip for my sanity. When my travel money ran out, I was sitting in the Hong Kong airport for the long and sad flight home.

“I had no plan and no job to go home to, so I made a bucket list, as if I had terminal cancer. Stand-up comedy was on my bucket list,” he says.

He has since performed “various shows in and around smaller club venues and larger theatre venues in South Africa”.

His way with words is what ultimately led him into a career in law, says Varkel.

“I had a knack for arguing well to save my own backside. When I was in Standard 9, one Saturday night, I went to a nightclub in Sea Point that had a strip show on. A photograph then appeared in Cape Style magazine and I was clearly identifiable in the photograph. Someone spotted me and I was called into the school principal’s office and threatened with suspension or even expulsion, as I had brought the school’s name into disrepute. I successfully argued my way out of it by showing in the photograph that I was not wearing the school uniform and nowhere on my clothing did it show I was from the school.”

V The book, released at the end of 2016, is on sale at The Book Lounge in Cape Town’s CBD, Blank Books in Salt River (opposite the Biscuit Mill) and Bay Books in Hout Bay Mainstream Centre.

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