Comedy Review: Taste Test, Or Drawing The Line And Then Hurdling It

March 7, 2015



Shaun Wewege / Are We Offended Yet? / PopArt, Main Street Life, Johannesburg


Broadly speaking, stand-up comedians take one of two approaches when pitching their humour: they’re rude or not; offensive or informative. Shaun Wewege, in his first one-man show, attempts to walk a middle road by highlighting the  far end of one scale – the title of the show refers to his attempting to amplify effrontery to a point where audiences either retreat or concede that they’ve heard and seen worse in the media or on their own Twitter or Facebook feeds.

Wewege’s observations regarding the casual contempt of everyday folks is spot-on, but his efforts at explaining his perspectives enjoy uneven success. His best sketch is actually an opening audio-visual piece in which captions are superimposed over a medieval painting of a group of followers around Jesus on the cross. One of the captions says (to paraphrase): “You fed us all with five loaves, but we’re Banting – how could you?” That mentality makes Wewege’s theme powerful; a necessary topic for discussion.

A consistent shortfall in his presentation of the idea, however, is the hard-sell he and warm-up act Vittorio Leonardi do on the intensity of the offence Wewege is supposedly going to deliver. And during his act, wewege generally pauses as soon as he’s delivered a particularly dark punchline – which, admittedly, might involve anything from hacking penguins to death to making the lives of a hobo more unpleasant than it already is – to check if those watching him are still open to receiving more of what he has to say.

These pauses have the effect of breaking his momentum, and he’s never on enough of a roll for the audience to completely invest in the material. There are occasional laughs, a few nervous murmurs and one or two grimace-worthy moments, but there is never the sort of flow and continuity that would make this show take off. Perhaps as Wewege’s set settles and develops, this will happen. That development will happen reasonably quickly, as one of the notable features of this show is when Wewege asks his audience if he can take a punchline and make it more offensive (the crowd’s answer is always “yes” – a slightly disturbing observation). Having  access to those different levels confirms that Wewege is aware that his initial forays are not as low as he can go. Which in turn means he’s probably answered the question posed in his show’s title before he gets on stage.