Interview: Schalk Bezuidenhout on wine, fast cars and the year 2020
The animated and moustachioed Schalk Bezuidenhout with his loud jerseys is a household South African name.
You have seen him on stages across the country, poking fun at himself and fellow South Africans with stories from his life, you’ve ugly-laughed at his stand-up comedy specials on Showmax, you know him as deur-die-kak Danny from Hotel and he even showed und surprised us all with a completely different and serious side of himself, dancing and singing in the coming-of-age drama, Kanarie.
His high-pitched “Hello mense!” alone should put you in a better mood, and Schalkie Bez probably lifted your spirits during the worst of the pandemic’s hard lockdown. To this day, he is also probably the only person who really knows which day of which level of the lockdown we find ourselves in.
We had a sit-down with the beloved Snorseun from Kempton, or, as he calls it, the New York of the East Rand, and talked about his international success, his favourite spots in South Africa, wine and what it’s like to own a really fast car.
You’ve traveled to Edinburgh for a few stand-up shows, and you nogal have the same agent as Eddy Izzard. Do you feel that there is more pressure on you performing for an international crowd? Do you work harder on material?
Performing internationally, yes, I’m very blessed, too blessed to stress! I did a comedy festival in Switzerland and there was a representative of Mick Perron Worldwide and she signed me after that festival.
Performing internationally for a crowd of mostly international people you’d actually be surprised that sometimes there’s not one South African in the crowd or only one South African in a crowd of like 40, 50 people. Internationally, people have disposable income, and they are very keen to discover new shows. I think a lot of us just won’t go to a show if you have no clue the person is but at the Edinburgh Festival, for example, people are like “Oh, this poster looks interesting, let’s go watch!”. And yes, it does make you work harder on material – the wider you must throw that net and connect with everyone, the harder it becomes, but it was an awesome challenge going over for the first time.
The first year performing internationally in comedy clubs in London wasn’t great, but it got better and better and eventually you figure it out because you have to find your voice – your voice is a white Afrikaans guy from South Africa on a world stage, and it’s just not necessarily about finding a new voice but repositioning that voice of yours.
With your stand-up shows, you traveled extensively throughout South Africa pre-lockdown and it seems like you’re picking up the pace again. What are the top three little dorpies that stand out for you?
Bloemfontein was really, really lekker … George has a proper, old-school beautiful theatre … and in Hartswater, the whole dorp was at the bar.
You’re mos from Kempton. What is the most Kempton thing you’ve seen in 2020 and what is the most Kempton thing you’ve done in 2020?
The most Kempton thing I’ve seen in 2020 is very simple: just people not wearing masks in places like the East Rand and not taking Covid too seriously, They were like: “Ag, you know, I’ve had brandewyn while I’ve been on antibiotics, I think I can handle the virus.”
“The most Kempton thing I’ve done in 2020? During level one we went for a braai at friends and they have an old 80s Lancia. They took us for a spin. I sat in the back with a glass of red wine and the person was driving pretty wild, but I didn’t spill my wine once!”
Speaking of lockdown – you really lifted the spirits of a lot of South Africans by posting your daily “feeling good, feeling positive” videos on Facebook. How do you lift your own spirits when you feel a little bit down?
You bought a house, got engaged and bought a Porsche. Like… f*kken this year. What are you trying to tell 2020?
I actually did not get engaged in 2020, I got engaged at the end of 2019, but ja, I bought a house and I bought a Porsche. I think the only thing I’m trying to tell 2020 is: “You’re not gonna break me 2020! You’re not gonna break me!”
I really can’t complain about 2020. Obviously, it was not a good year for a lot of artists because live shows couldn’t happen. Even now, they can happen, but at only 50-percent capacity. When you factor in your travel expenses and all the expenses that it costs to put on the show, normally you need the 50 percent to just cover your expenses but flights and stuff aren’t half price.
So actually, at the moment, you’ll lose money if you travel to a certain city to go do a show for 50-percent capacity. I was very fortunate. I think for comedians, in general, it was quite easy to transition into an online space and do an online show because we didn’t need complicated gear – you basically just needed a laptop.
It’s not like an actor that’s maybe in a play who couldn’t put on a whole production over the laptop, because, you know, you need your cast with you. The videos I started doing doubled my online following, which I’m very grateful for and obviously now makes selling tickets way easier.
You’re mostly known as a funny guy but then you hit it out of the park with a serious role in Kanarie. Can we expect more of that?
The lekker thing about stand-up is that we obviously can create your own work. If I have a quiet month, I can phone a few venues and book a few shows. With acting you have to wait for auditions and stuff so ja, I’d like to do more serious roles and serious acting as much as I can.
At the moment, there’s nothing on the horizon but, you know, if there’s an audition for something, I’d do it and I’m always keen. I really loved Kanarie, showing a different side of myself, and surprising people. I really enjoyed that!
Die Ware Naarheid is a lekker take on the local news and South Africans can almost regard you as our own John Snorliver. How do you go about setting it apart from existing international shows?
It’s difficult to make it that much different from other news satire shows because at the end of the day, news satire is quite a specific genre. It’s like stand-up comedy – if you watch a special from Dave Chappelle, Trevor Noah or Jerry Seinfeld, the show is the same in terms of the one person isn’t really doing anything different from the next. They’re on stage with a target market, so in that regard, the show is the same.
At the end of the day, myself, John Oliver and Trevor Noah are behind a desk, doing satire about the news. I think what sets you apart is you just have to trust that you and your comedy, your sense of humour and your style is what sets you apart.
The way we set ourselves apart is by just being as uniquely “us” as possible. American politics is quite far removed from us and to be quite frank, sometimes us South African just don’t really care.
Ware Naarheid is Afrikaans, it is for an Afrikaans audience and it’s our politics, our people and the stuff in our country that is affecting us.
Want more Schalk? You’ll find him in these shows, movies and stand-up specials on Showmax:
- Schalk Bezuidenhout: Schalkie
- Schalk Bezuidenhout – Volksbesit
- Schalk Bezuidenhout: Snorseun
- Die Ware Naarheid met Schalk Bezuidenhout
- Schalk Bezuidenhout – Second Language
- Schalk Bezuidenhout – Lewendig
- CC Presents: Schalk Bezuidenhout Live at Parker’s
- The Live Series: National Comics Party
- The Live Series: A White Christmas 2