Wednesday, June 05, 2013
The Jive Funny Festival, which is now in its
ninth year, always presents a mix of the familiar with the foreign – but
it’s all funny. Somali-born UK comedian Prince Abdi spoke to Helen
‘Cape Town here I come, the
original pirate is sailing to you,” Prince Abdi ends his e-mail with
this enthusiastic statement – oh, and a smiley face emoticon to boot.
Technical issues have made it
impossible for us to speak on the phone, but that doesn’t mean the
Somali (hence the “pirate” wink) comic is less excited about debuting
his stand-up comedy – which is rich in storytelling – at the Jive Funny
Rolling around for the ninth year,
the Funny Fest – which takes place at the Baxter Theatre from Monday to
July 7 – has brought Jive Cooldrink on board as the new main sponsor
and thus switched up the name a little, but the quality of comedy
will, hopefully, remain unchanged.
Our very own Alan Committie
reprises his role as MC for the month-long festival. Also representing
South Africa at the festival are stand-up comedian and actor Siv Ngesi;
funnyman and radio presenter Guy McDonald; the veteran of funny, Marc
Lottering; and another stand-up comedian, Carl Wastie.
You can also expect to see
Canadian clown Mooky Cornish and UK pianist Kev Orkian, who is a
regular at the Funny Fest. The UK also lends us juggler Steve Rawlings;
singer Wilfredo and UK-resident, although born in Somalia, Abdi.
nothing but belly laughs, Cape Town, or ask for your money back. From
me, I’m rich,” says Abdi, who will be performing at the Jive Funny
Festival for the first time.
But stand-up comedy wasn’t always
on the list of viable career paths for Abdi. He actually spent time as a
teacher before he decided he wanted to go to work and see adults.
“Being a teacher was a little bit like being a stand-up comedian in that
you had be in control and get the attention of your pupils,” he
shares. “The only difference is the humour side.”
He says he’s had “about 14
different jobs”, including painter and paperboy, but “comedy is a very
difficult artform and I’m learning every day. I love the buzz I get from
it. I never got that buzz from any other job, which is why I quit my
job as a teacher and took the risk to concentrate on comedy without
having that much experience. My family went bonkers.”
Abdi’s family, who left Somalia in
the 1980s, seem to be a big deal to him. He even shares that on his
list of must-haves when he’s getting ready to do an engagement as long
as this festival, is “internet for skyping my family and friends. I
haven’t been away for this long before so we will see what happens, I
might break down and call out for ‘Mommy!’”
Although he often returns to
Somalia to visit – “I love it there! Do no mention this to UK
immigration or they might deport me. The weather is amazing, the food is
so fresh, people don’t age and the kids are so mature it’s quite
scary,” he says – Abdi is often labelled as a Somali comic, even though
he’s lived in London for most of his life.
On labels, Abdi says: “I’m a
comedian who happens to be from Somalia. Labels will always be there,
but it doesn’t really bother me, my focus is being funny on stage.
been labelled a hip hop comedian, a muslim comedian, an Afro-Carribean
comedian, an Anglo-Somali comedian. So labels will always be there,
So will the stigma about South Africa being a no-go zone, it seems.
Abdi shares: “A lot of people are
worried for me that I’m coming to South Africa, saying: ‘Don’t go, it’s
too dangerous.’ I think they forget I’m from Somalia.”
I imagine a smiley face emoticon would’ve been in order after that sentence, too.
• The Jive Cape Town Funny
Fest features Prince Abdi, Alan Committie, Mooky Cornish, Steve
Rawlings, Siv Ngesi, Guy McDonald, Marc Lottering and more at the Baxter
Concert Hall, Main Road, Rondebosch, from Monday to July 7 at 8pm. R150