Schalk Bezuidenhout was born in Kempton Park or as he calls it – ‘The New York of the East Rand’. In Kempton Park the traditional Afrikaans way of living was a good life. Your mother’s breast milk would be brannewyn en coke and you would walk kaalvoet to school. His family and friends stood back as they watched Schalk evolve from an Afrikaans conservative caterpillar into a beautiful drama queen butterfly, complete with a moustache and furry afro. It was obvious to Schalk’s parents that he would study drama, and to help numb the pain they sent him away to study at the University of Cape Town. While studying in Cape Town Schalk slowly began to realise that there was so much more to life than boerewors and rugby, and started doing stand-up in April 2011. On stage Schalk is fun and energetic and appeals to people of all kinds and colours.
Q&A with Schalk
How did your career in the industry begin?
I really wanted to get a theatre performance degree after I left school but unfortunately didn’t make the audition. I decided to try again the following year and passed the audition, which really was an honour considering only something like 30 kids get in a year. This was the start of my career in performance.
After a few years I really got my foot in the door and had done a fair amount of stand-up comedy. At this point I decided this is definitely what I want to make out of my career.
If I had got into theatre performance the first year, I would never have found my love for stand-up comedy. I love this story; it shows that sometimes your biggest disappointment at the time can lead to your greatest discovery.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best piece of advice I ever received was from a comedian, David Levinsohn. We were doing a gig at Cape Town Comedy Club and went on stage. He was just doing a guest spot for like ten minutes and he just spoke about where he had just come from. He spoke about the corporate event he had just come from, and it was hilarious, but he wasn’t doing material at all. He came offstage where the comedians were hanging on his every word, like “how did you do that? You didn’t even have material” you know, and he was the funniest guy.
He said, “Sometimes the audience just wants to know how your day was. And that was beautiful to me because it basically just taught the importance of the relationship with the audience. They don’t always want a rehearsed piece.
I’ve learnt that the more real I get, the more people listen and connect because you’re giving them what is real.
Tell us something about yourself that nobody knows.
I love my dogs a lot. On a kind of insane level. Often, I shed a tear when I drop them off at doggy daycare, even though it’s like the most larney daycare and they love it.
I just get so emotional when I drive away from them, I’m like geez, I’m not going to see them the whole day. I’m going to miss them so much.
I think people would laugh if they knew just how much I love them.
What is your biggest career highlight so far?
1800 seater theatre sold out for a month. Standing ovations before you’ve even said your first word.
I would start each performance thinking, “ok, let’s see how much I can blow these people away. Make them laugh really hard and when they leave have them say ‘WOW that opening act was really good’”
That was incredible.
What projects are you currently working on?
Wow, I’m just really touring at the moment. Now that things are open, I’m just touring and gigging as hard as I can. If I can have a month where I’m gigging every night, I will do it.
The main thing in the next few months, will be starting to work on a new show. And then at the end of the year, I’ll do some more touring.
The new show will be a proper countrywide tour again; PE, East London, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban… all the stops.
How do you think we can grow the creative industry and bring African content to the world?
Honestly, I think the best way to do that is just freakin’ graft as hard as we can and put out quality.
I think if something is good, people will gravitate towards it. I think it’s kind of as simple as that. You know now that the world is so connected and accessible with Netflix and Instagram and Facebook, people will find you.
We often feel sorry for ourselves… Third World Africa, blah blah blah. But all it takes, is to just be like “No, screw that! We’ve got as much talent as anyone else in the world. Look at us!”
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