/ 28 November 2006

The madness of king John

In the introduction to his new CD, Man in Black, comedian John Vlismas runs down an extensive list of people to whom his comedy might be offensive — from Italians, Capetonians and people who think Elvis is alive to anyone who has ever done the sakkie-sakkie to Achy Breaky Heart.

He certainly spares no holy cow, sheep or chicken in his quick-fire, motormouth style of comedy, which can be observed every Sunday night at Cool Runnings in Melville, Johannesburg, where he has just launched the second year of the weekly Comedy Underground sessions with the help of fellow comedian and former Toasty Show star Bevan Cullinan.

At these sessions Vlismas gives up-and-coming comedians (and visiting veterans, like Mark Banks) a chance to try out their routines on stage. He and Cullinan provide the introduction and links in the most bizarre and absurd ways. They mime energetically to Queen songs; they tell fairy tales like you have never heard them before; and Vlismas lets fly at audience members with hilarious putdowns, comebacks and insults at the speed of light.

But the Comedy Underground is just one of Vlismas’s current projects. He has become one of the busiest comedians in the country, a fast rise to fame (or infamy) after he was a co-host of entertainment magazine show Live @ Five a few years ago.

He has his own website, has launched another with Cullinan, has produced his own CD and is back on stage with Cullinan in their comedy show Grinder.

The website he and Cullinan have launched late last year can be found at www.winfreesex.tv — a carefully chosen name that will make it pop up when people enter popular Internet search terms such as ‘free” and ‘sex”. Manic-looking Teletubbies float across the screen as the site loads its options, which include ‘horrorscopes” — for Fairies, Femini, Big Goat, Anchovies and other silly star signs — as well as audio and video clips, and a wacky daily diary for Vlismas and Cullinan. The site is set to grow over time, adding new features that will entice comedy fans to return for a daily dose of laughs.

Vlismas’s own Internet site, found at www.johnvlismas.com, confidently proclaims he is ‘South Africa’s funniest man” and offers interviews, soundbytes, a rants section and more.

Vlismas’s comedy CD, Man in Black (put out by Ready Rolled), is a collection of recordings from his live comedy shows covering a variety of subjects. He unfailingly takes on Jo’burg’s monstrous Parktown prawns, snails, lesbians, panty liners and does the inevitable comparison of Johannesburg and Cape Town (or the ‘Cape of Good Dope”, as Vlismas would have it). Also included is a 17-minute diatribe on Cape Town’s beaches that’s sure to put a grin on anyone’s face with its sideswipes at cold sea water, kelp and G-strings. As mentioned before, his comedy certainly isn’t for the easily offended, but it is damn funny, even if it’s only in audio form — his manic stage personality does add that final, knife-sharp edge to his act.

Cullinan also joins forces with Vlismas at the Civic Theatre in Johannesburg for a return season of their show Grinder, an odd and entertaining comedy that kicks off with two sperm cells impregnating one egg, resulting in the birth of twins. The show, a blend of physical theatre and comedy, follows the experiences of the twins as they grow up and start to hang out at raves, bars and other parties.

So, quite literally, the man is everywhere, providing plenty of opportunity for those in search of a good laugh to enter the warped world of this star of South African comedy. Catch him soon before the nervous breakdown.

Find out more about Vlismas and Cullinan when they appear on kykNET’s Kunskafee on Sunday February 17 at 8pm

Grinder runs at the Civic Theatre from February 12 to March 2 — Tuesday to Thursday, 7.30pm; Fridays and Saturdays, 9pm. Tickets are R60 (R50 for students) at Computicket. For block bookings call the theatre at Tel: (011) 403 3408. Kunskafee airs on kykNET on Sunday evenings at 8pm