Café by Durban day, carnival of comedy by night

Comedy now has a home in Durban, at Camden031, the first comedy club to open in Kwazulu-Natal. It’s a coffee shop and bistro with free wi-fi on weekdays. On Friday and Saturday nights it hosts a line-up of stand-up comedy acts from Durban and around the country.

The name of the club is homage to the London town where owner Glen Bo performed his first stand-up, before returning home to Durban eight years ago. He found a burgeoning yet scattered comedy scene with talented comics subsisting on a few monthly gigs at various city venues.

In 2007 he started the Durban Society of Comedy (DSOC), a platform and training ground for new comedic acts from KwaZulu-Natal that identifies itself as the “official comedy supplier” to Splashy Fen Music Festival, Graça Comedy Showdown and the Nando’s Comedy Festival.

The likes of Robby Collins, Dusty Rich and Simi Arreff have risen through the DSOC ranks to enjoy national acclaim. Collins, a writer on the Emmy-nominated episode of Late Nite News with Loyiso Gola and an opening act for Trevor Noah, Eugene Khoza and Marc Lottering, hosted Camden031’s opening weekend last month.

“Over the past six years I’ve seen Durban comedy build up a real following. The DSOC improv show pulled 4 500 people to the main stage of the Splashy Fen festival last year, a bigger crowd than MiCasa. There’s no reason we should still be at the mercy of restaurants and venues that don’t really engage with a proper set-up for comedy.”

After years of losing great Durban comics to better professional prospects in Johannesburg, Bo has built a dedicated venue that will take its place alongside Johannesburg’s Parker’s and Cape Town’s Jou Ma Se Comedy Club as a definite stop for big-name comedic tours around the country. Up-and-coming local acts also enjoy opportunities to cut their teeth on a real professional stage that has already been graced by Cape Town’s Schalk Bezuidenhout.

With Jack Daniels bottles as soap dispensers in bathrooms labelled “The Kurts” and “The Courtneys”, and a huge wall mural of Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry, the vibe might be grunge rock ‘n roll Camden-style but don’t expect your usual pub fare.

Bo’s partner and executive chef David Boyter brings his high-end dining experience from restaurants such as Aubergine in Hillcrest

and the Eastern Cape’s award-winning Sebumo Tude Nature’s Lounge. Boyter and Bo (who fancies himself a bit of a foodie) don’t do set menus. They plan the dinner service around what’s fresh and seasonal. Boyter boasts of the restaurant’s “beautiful big kitchen, with not much storage space, no microwave and no freezer”.

Diners can check the Camden031 Facebook page for what to expect on the weekend menu and the stage acts. Specialities include a 21-day aged fillet steak, homemade pasta with prawns and “Glen’s special pesto”. The bar, constructed out of repurposed pallets, dispenses craft beers and a robust wine selection. Dinner is served on the deck from 6pm. The show begins at 8pm.

507 Lillian Ngoyi Road, Durban, 061 028 7428. Facebook: Camden031 Twitter: @Camden031

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Zanele Mji
Zanele Mji is storyteller and multimedia journalist

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