I’ve been known to return home rather late in the evenings.Perhaps this is due to the modern ailment coined FOMO(Fear of missing out)or perhaps it’s because I’m exceptionally social or perhaps because where I reside,in a suburb situated at the end of Cape Town,not too much goes on.
I like the action,the lights and the vibe of the city.It has always been an aspiration to live and work in the city centre,and though this may be hard for people in other provinces to fathom,Cape Town city remains a hub of activity where people flock to. More so the city is maintained and is aesthetically attractive,unlike the city centre of the other major city centres in South Africa.
One evening after watching a show,I left town and returned to the faraway suburb of Kraaifontein. Having exhausted all my cigarettes,the best option seemed to be to visit the local bar called Uncle Stan’s pizza pub-the only place open after hours that retains the R22.50 as opposed to R35 at filling stations.
What you have to understand is that this place is smet.You may not be familiar with this term smet,but it is a slang term for something grungy,filthy and even common.You’ll find the most interesting characters in smet places but you will also be ogled shamelessly if you are a female.It’s the type of place that you’re not going to “check in” on,on Facebook.More so I doubt if any selfies have proudly been posted on Instagram with has tags such as #Inniekraaibak#Unclestans#mannesonder tanne (trans.#InnieKraaifontein#unclestans#menwithoutteeth).
I suppose the appeal of a place like Uncle Stan’s is that it is close to home for its usual patrons.It becomes a matter of convenience if you’re really in the mood to drink. A local watering hole where you build a community of drinkers and kak praaters(trans.bullshitters) also has its appeal since people are by nature gregarious. This might not appeal to many,but in Stan’s there exists slot machines,which draws it’s own brand of hopefuls.
As I entered Stan’s,I immediately become self-conscious.All eyes are fixed on me and I receive slight nods,wry grins and blatant stares.I ask the barman for my brand and just as I pay and about to leave,a poster catches my eye.Could it be?Perhaps it’s true?I refer to the poster and ask the barman “Hey mister,is that for real?” and a patron to the left of me answers “it’s on the poster,it must be real”.He then proceeds to ask me if I thought that things like this are impossible here in Stan’s.He then went further to say that I should know that Stan’s bar is famous.
The poster relayed that on 15 May,Mel Jones would be performing comedy in Stan’s at 20:00.I couldn’t believe it.Was Stan’s famous after all?Had I been missing out on a cultural hub on my doorstep because of my preconceptions?This had to be remedied,so as I left I fixed the date and time in my head,because yes, I would be there to see Mel Jones for free comedy in my neighbourhood.
Granted,I’ve never seen Mel perform before,but she has become one of the comedians whose name is recognisable and respected.When attending Nomad Artiste Colony’s Spoken Word Showdown,the culture of comedy and comedians as an entity has lured my interest.It would seem that comedians run in packs.They attend an array of events to network,check out the competition and gain information as to where and how they can get stage time.I suppose they are much like any other artists,but there is definitely a group-like-camaraderie amoung them and it seems everyone knows everyone.I knew that watching Mel meant I got to see a established comedian in a rather unusual venue and naturally it had to be done.
The night of the show I begged and pleaded with my sister to come to Stan’s with me.Her immediate reaction was “why would I ever go to that place”, but with the promise of a few drinks I managed to convince her.As soon as we sat down we realised we were two of four females at the bar.We chatted and waited until we spotted Mel.It was then that I realised Stan’s bar was in fact not famous,but the reasons for Mel’s presence was an initiative by Grand slots,who organised entertainment at various bars where their slot machines were installed.
Kagiso D Mokgadi,a comedian from Pretoria, acted as MC and opened the gig for Mel.He had a hard time of it.The crowd was disrespectful,rowdy and somewhat aloof,as if they were used to having comedians of Kagiso’s reputation in Stan’s bar.The man has performed at the Baxter for goodness sakes,for money!Here however,in this cove in Kraaifontein,he was disregarded by folk who did not concede a cent.I felt for him.
When Mel stepped to the stage,it was a different story.She took control,moved chairs around,told people to sit and persisted that this was a show and she’d like to be heard.Mel is what I’d call a no-nonsense-lady.Assertive,fearless and confident.She handled that room of men with such tenacity that immediately they were hooked.Best of all-she was exceptionally funny.Her brand of comedy is rooted in her Mitchells Plain neighbourhood and contains anecdotes of childhood stories,hair,names,old boyfriends and even karaoke.
Her comedy was aimed at a “coloured” audience and a mixture of English and Afrikaans persisted through her set.She was funny without being insulting and without being pretentious.She was quintessentially comfortable in her skin and felt no hesitation to reprimand anyone who disrupted her set.
Despite her initial hesitation in going with me,my sister sang Mel’s praises and laughed her head off.She later admitted that she was so glad we went.
I think it was admirable the way Mel handled herself considering the crowd was initially unruly,but it’s also a very brave thing to perform in a venue that does not necessarily avail itself to artworks such as planned and organised comedic sets.
I suppose the lesson here is:
-not to be too proud to take the less glamorous jobs as an artist.
-to be comfortable in your art,you know you are talented,the crowd just has to be eased into realising that too.
-I’m hooked on comedy.
-And of course:Smet can also be lekker.