SUNDAY TIMES - The Goliaths are making a serious name for themselves in the comedy business
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Sunday Times Lifestyle By Shanthini Naidoo, 2017-03-19 00:00:00.0

The Goliaths are making a serious name for themselves in the comedy business

Jason, Kate, Nicholas and Donovan Goliath, the comedy giants who are slaying audiences.
Image: ALON SKUY

Let's get the puns out of the way. Goliath and Goliath are making BIG moves to grow comedy in South Africa.

They may be young in the game, but are a GIANT force in the country's comedy industry. The GOLIATHS have taken on DAVID (Kau) and other established comics in their role as comedy promoters.

Jokes aside, Jason, Nicholas, Donovan (whose middle name is David, true story) and "the boss" Kate Goliath have made a serious name for themselves in the business of comedy. Not the least of which is their spiffy, year-old comedy club in Melrose Arch, Johannesburg.

Donovan, an honorary family member but not related to the others, said their paths crossed six years ago at Cool Runnings in Melville, Johannesburg (which has since closed).

They were establishing their own comedy careers, but had a plan to take over the world from the start, the former ad executive said.

"I met Jason a week after my first gig. We happened to have the same surname, which was the first point of connection," he said. (Jason and Kate are siblings, Nicholas is a cousin.) "The second point was the common need to get more stage time."

Venues like Poppy's and Kitchener's Bar are the spots to watch upcoming stand-up comics in Johannesburg; there is also Kau's Blacks Only events, Whackhead Simpson's comedy club on the East Rand and Joe Parker's at Montecasino. But there was room for more.

"Comedy is so young, and we found that people didn't consume enough because they don't know the access points," Jason said. "There were always more comedians than audience at open mics. When we ask the audience on any night who is watching comedy for the first time, it is up to 70% of the room."

The team created AWEdnesday on the West Rand, which moved to Maboneng's PopArt Theatre. At R50 a ticket, "it still works four years later — it is a small, intimate, underground kind of venue with a hardcore audience."

Then Jozi Comedy, showcasing new comedic talent kicked off in a small boardroom at Melrose Arch's Fire and Ice Hotel. The line-ups were attractive, including Mpho Popps and Tall A$$ Mo.

"We added Menlyn, and suddenly we were running seven gigs a month," said Jason.

There were hits and bombs, but the audience was there.

The initiative won a Comics Choice award for "best friend of comedy" in 2015. "That speaks volumes for me, because it comes from the comedians' vote," said Jason, a former marketer. "Especially when we were up against the biggest managers in the country."

WATCH one of Jason Goliath's stand up sets

 

The idea for The Goliath Comedy Club was cemented with hospitality entrepreneur Tony Raciti. The club has the unplastered brick walls of traditional New York-style comedy venues, with a moody spotlight and red velvet curtain, straight out of the 1980s Jerry Seinfeld era.

But there is also some sharp, slick Jozi design and quirky decor like bar stools featuring dogs in archbishop's clothing. Also, the food is fantastic.

Donovan said: "We wanted to take comedy out of the dingy environment, which is cool for underground stuff, but that scene wasn't getting audiences in.

The seating to see the stage had to be good from all angles. The chairs had to be comfortable and strong enough for Jason to sit in for 90 minutes."

Kate said visiting comics from around the world were impressed. "We had Orlando Jones visit, and another night, Laurence Fishburne was here, it was amazing."

Jason added: "It has become a place for comics to hang out, for the industry to meet up. We love the fact that people come here, no matter who is playing."

Nicholas prepares the line-ups. "We want people to walk away saying, 'R150, it was so worth it, a bargain, we must come back next week,' which they do," he said.

"Seeing people we don't know, young talent, has changed the attitudes of the older comics because the audience's minds are changing to what comedy can be. Right now, comedy in South Africa is still in its infancy."

Talent development is essential in a scene that has exploded in just a few years. "There are a handful of young guys who are talented and relevant, cut-throat, they are big on social media and have a following. Very often the open spot does better than the headline act. We have to manage the energy when we structure line-ups," said Nicholas.

Their dream line-up for a "killer night" would be Nik Rabinowitz, Riaad Moosa, Joey Rasdien, Mark Lottering, Loyiso Gola, Loyiso Madinga, Trevor Noah and a Goliath to host.

But Jason said: "One of our main jobs is educating audiences. Look, Trevor is our hero. Most of the country has had exposure to him. But there are other genres of comedy work too."

He mentions Carvin Goldstone, John Vlismas and Moosa, and "newer guys" like Werner Cloete "who is so dark", Dillan Oliphant "who is uber dry", and Skhumba "who is so high-energy".

"We want audiences to appreciate all of our comics and to develop an appetite for different things, " Jason said.

Donovan said Africa was producing a new breed of talent. "Comedy from the Third World is unbelievable. The pace and style is unpredictable because they are doing their own thing, not copying the US style. It is culturally rich, the stories are fresh and unique."

As Jason said: "It doesn't matter whether you watch here, go to Joe Parker's, Whackheads. Just go watch comedy. It is better than watching the news."

The Goliath Comedy Experience is on from April 24 to 30. Visit Goliath Comedy Club for more info.

JOIN THE GOLIATHS FOR SOME FAMILY FUN

Watch Nicholas, Jason & Donovan Goliath prepare for the slime of their lives

NickFest 2017 is all about pranks, stunts, celebrity slimings and comic clowning around. The Goliaths will be at Joburg's TicketPro Dome on March 25 and 26, presenting family-friendly fun with glam co-host Minnie Dlamini.

The legendary Slime Area in which kids will be able to slither around, bathe, battle and shower in 10,000 litres of gloriously gooey slime is also back.

Tickets at ticketpros.co.za from R290 per person. Visit nickelodeon.com for info.