A few years ago, an acquaintance who lives in neighbouring suburb, remarked that as far as she is concerned, ‘anywhere north of Sandton City is The Bush’. This was a sentiment with which I could fully identify, for if I can avoid travelling beyond Sandton for any reason other than actually setting off for the Game Reserve or other parts of Africa, I do.
Which is why it is surprising that on Saturday night I went to see Michael McIntyre. He gave a one-off performance at the Cocoa Cola Dome near Northgate and it is an indication of how much I enjoy and appreciate his humour that I was prepared to venture out there – for the first time ever – to see him in person. I, and as it turned out, several thousand other people. From the outside, I have never liked the look of ‘The Dome’, as it is generally referred to. It resembles an enormous upside-down soup bowl and it accommodates thousands and thousands of people and the thought of being in there amongst them all has never held much appeal. Until Michael skipped into town.
South Africans have got to know Michael McIntyre over the last few years on the BBC channel on DSTV and it seems that his fame and appeal here have taken him quite by surprise. Until we arrived at the venue on Saturday we were not at all sure what we’d find. Maybe just a few hundred English-speaking South Africans who seek refuge in BBC productions? Perhaps the audience would be embarrassingly small and inhibited? Perhaps the show would be cancelled for lack of support? But when we found ourselves caught up in a major traffic jam, inching our way towards the vast parking area and when we joined the thousands of people thronging the bridge leading into the venue itself, all such apprehension vanished.
The Dome was packed. There must have been about eight thousand people there and every possible variation of creed, culture, language group and colour of this Rainbow Nation were represented. A roar of welcome rolled across the cavernous space and Michael, as he bounded onto the stage, must have almost felt the physical impact of the sound wave as it flooded towards him. And so the show got underway and the laughter started. And it didn’t stop.
Michael McIntyre has a knack of finding humour in the mundane; in the everyday events that overtake us all at some stage or other and present us with challenges both big and small. He is never cruel and never derogatory and more often than not, deftly turns the jokes towards himself. His references to other cultures and other accents are astute and funny but never disparaging and so, somehow, he allows a completely diverse audience to find common ground in comedy.
It was refreshing and something of a novelty to be at a comedy show in this country and to be entertained without a single reference to our politicians or policies – historic or current. Instead we were given a heightened awareness of our commonality and a sense of being part of a bigger picture – a bigger world – where our foibles, frailties, idiosyncrasies and eccentricities are just that; part of our universal humanity.
Filing out after the show, the mood was ebullient. People could be heard complaining of laughter-stiffened jaws and mascara-tracked-cheeks betrayed the tears of hilarity that had streamed down countless faces. Snatches of conversation illustrated the themes and punch lines that had resonated uniquely with individuals and among friends.
Michael McIntyre is a comedian. But he’s also something of a magician: Spellbound, his audience is woven together in the realisation that at heart we are far more alike than we are different. There is a palpable buoyancy of step in the departing crowd; a sense – no matter how fleeting – that if in essence we share so much, our possibilities should be limitless. We need to be reminded of this often. Hopefully Michael McIntyre will come back soon and do just that.