Irreverent Capetonian comedian Loyiso Gola recently held his one man show at the Zeitz Mocaa in the V&A precinct. In the spirit of collaboration, the Waterfront lends its Tribute to Light and Hope platform, to give voice to his take on the art of collaboration in a time of COVID.
Stand up comedy is intuitively collaborative. A joke leaves a comic’s mouth and lands on the audiences’ ears who in turn, laugh, gasp, groan or boo depending on both the intention of the comedian and the pliability of the crowd. Everyone understands the intended goals and there are many styles a performer can use to amuse their audience. In turn the spectators attend the comedy show expecting to be entertained through those many techniques whether it’s levity, shock, disgust and even outright offence. It’s an un-worded contract understood by the participating parties to achieve an objective; it’s a collaboration of sorts.
At the end of the night the drunk couple in the front goes home to their overfed diabetic miniature dog and separate marital bedrooms with their personal version of how successful the collaboration was that night. ‘That night’, being the Garam Masala in the curry of the Durban bunny chow that is collaboration. The Mother-In-Law Masala in the curry is the layered, eye-watering understanding that collaboration is ever constant and must be handled with care and refinement, perpetually. Yes, collaboration is intuitive and necessary to the success of all human endeavour including the invention and proliferation of the bun-chow, but mess around with the ingredient and you’ll catch a heat check all week long, asking the first person in every building you enter where the nearest bathroom is.
It’s fairly obvious that there are different types of collaboration: There’s the intuitive, mutually beneficial kind that stand up comedy usually tries to achieve. When the comedian has their audience cackling without inhibition or dignity, where the middle aged couple in a marital slump can return home high on the endorphins and adrenalin from a lengthy laughing spree. Everyone benefits from jokes well told, even the dog.
Then there’s the collaborative instinct that seeks to only work for some, when everything and everyone is competition. This is the kind of collaborative teaching businesses necessitate to their teams. They call it competition but the real meaning is closer to adversarial. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it in business, it supposedly produces better products and services for customers at lower prices, but it’s still with the implicit intention to outperform the competition. This is when hoarding boxes of surgical gloves and masks during an approaching pandemic by civilians who can, is justified with the synaptic logic of a Grand Theft Auto mission.
Since 2020 we’ve seen these two types of collaboration with regards to the lockdown. In the beginning we all hunkered down; the poor who couldn’t afford to horde, learned how to make masks from discarded T-shirts on YouTube because this was an opportunity to ‘learn new things’; others meditated for the first few days before realising that there was no need to shut out the world anymore because it was all stillness all the time anyway. Half a year later we emerged from our holes, lighter in complexion and wider in the softer areas of the body. We had done it. Sort of, because collaboration has to persist to succeed and it did.
In the last month of 2020, in conjunction with the Zeitz MOCAA at the V&A Waterfront, we were able to apply both approaches of collaboration. We staged my one man show, Unlearn over two nights in the ornate and cavernous lobby of the Art Museum. With the threat of infection still a stark reality, the task was both to have a mutually beneficial stand up concert that enlightened the audience’s collective anxiety about the virus but also adopt a serious approach towards ensuring everyone was as safe as possible by applying strict perimeters around social distancing and responsible event management. It took the effort of a few Micheal Bay blockbusters but we pulled it off. Not least because we implemented the mutually beneficial approach exemplified through comedy but also because we were adversarial in keeping the infection at bay for everyone involved, a duty that demanded a corporate attitude to achieve.
There are no traditional stand up shows at the moment. There will be no audiences for comedians for a while, which is a good thing for troubled marriages because now they can take their issues to a qualified couple’s counsellor and get their plump petite dogs onto the correct diet plan.
Read More: Cape Town Lights Up For Hope Every Night
About the V&A’s Tribute of light and Hope
At midnight on the 31st of December 2020 the V&A Waterfront shone a light of hope from the precinct which, on clear nights, will be visible throughout the city and surrounding suburbs. The beam, which consists of 36 vertical searchlights, forms part of the Waterfronts’ Tribute of Light and Hope symbolising the lives that were lost, the jobs that were affected, the coming together of a nation in solidarity and ultimately for hope in the new year. The beam of light which lit up the Waterfront skyline for an hour at midnight on New Year’s Eve will continue to shine daily for an hour at 21h00 until the 6th of January.