It was with great sadness that I stumbled upon a post on Facebook by John Vlismas and the good people of Whacked Management announcing the demise of the most loved comedy club in the history of the local scene.
The Comedy Underground - situated at the deep end of a dank set of steps beneath Cool Runnings in Melville - is unanimous among comics as having the sweetest sweet spot and the best collection of memories a dungeon is allowed to have.
Sweaty little fire hazard
Against all odds, this sweaty little fire-hazard of a comedy club has hosted top class, no holds barred, alternative stand-up every Sunday for over ten years. And remarkably, no-one has died. At least no-one whose remains Taffia hadn’t disposed of before anyone else could notice.
In that time the cramped low-ceilinged stage, with the ugliest backdrop mural in the history of ugly backdrop comedy club murals, has hosted international acts Pauly Shore, Chris Lynam, Mark Curry and Chris Rock as well as every good, great or downright shit South African comedian you can think of.
Only one man has seen every one of those acts over a frightening 520 Sundays and it is a sobering and depressing thought to imagine comedy sound alchemist Gavin Harrison twiddling imaginary knobs in a corner of his badly lit (but well pimped in the audio department) domicile this Sunday.
It's hard to believe that I won't be able to witness the demented genius that is John Vlismas plunder and pillage on the battleground of his own making. His hunched figure, cramped around the Sunday papers as he sat on the edge of the stage between Gavin’s sound desk and the little tub of free booze before thundering onto stage and tearing into all and sundry with reckless abandon is an image indelibly emblazoned on the minds of pretty much every South African comic out there.
In his statement to those who cared, Vlismas made a point of thanking the venue owners and the audience that has nurtured the dreams of countless of hopeful comedians:
"While we cannot express how sad we feel at saying goodbye to our foul, smelly little dungeon - we understand that business is tough, and we are very grateful to the owners, who so gracefully put up with us for so long, and wish them all the best...
"Finally, a massive round of applause for our audience, for standing up for us, for supporting original and truly innovative SA comedy - even though we regularly told you to fuck off, sometimes with your mom - you knew we were joking, and you gave us the energy to push the envelope, and you cheered us on as we broke new ground."
End of an era
It is truly the end of an era in South African comedy, but all is not doom and gloom. As the custodians of all that is simultaneously profane and sacred about local comedy, Whacked has a responsibility to find a new venue and forge ahead. Vlismas had one last missive of hope to fire out to his desperate public"
"…we promise that as soon as we find a venue that smells the same, we will let you know, and our first night in our new home will be free, as a thank you for the last ten years. Now, fuck off....."
The Comedy Underground is dead! Long Live the Comedy Underground!
Follow on Twitter for Comedy Underground updates:
John Vlismas @fortyshort
Taffia Keight @TaffiaWhacked