The Comedy Central Roast of Steve Hofmeyr

By Frisco Rosso

You can’t spell hyperbole without hype, certainly not in the case of Comedy Central’s Roast of walking faux pas Steve Hofmeyr.

Billed as a comedy apocalypse that would reduce Hofmeyr to his knees, the roast in many respects missed the mark, with roaster Kuli Roberts taking almost as much flak as the “roastee”.

One would perhaps expect some sort of South African spin considering this is new, if not rehashed ground for the country’s television audience, but it turned out to be simple imitation with no innovation to speak of. As David Kau accurately pointed out during his set, “once again we have gathered here with a bunch of South Africans that are trying to do some shit they saw on American TV”, a sentiment which was greeted with a stony-faced response from the rest of the panel.

Roast host Trevor Noah handled proceedings fluidly and his impromptu jokes were far sharper than his scripted ones, though his regular laughter at his own material became irritating after a while.

Kicking off the roast was Robert Whitehead, whose overdramatic delivery seemed never-ending and would have benefitted from some stringent editing. Next up was disgraced former columnist Roberts who spent as much time readjusting her wig as delivering her meek, poorly delivered set.

John Vlismas was perhaps the only member of the panel who successfully set Hofmeyr’s Boer blood to boil after his comic anecdote about historic Boer leader Piet Retief and his death in 1838. Clearly irritated by Vlismas’s flippant handling of a seemingly sensitive subject in Afrikaner circles, Hofmeyr promptly strode over and jammed Vlismas’s script into his mouth. To his credit Vlismas recovered quickly and kept his momentum, but it proved to be the only surprise of the night.

Following after was the zesty Anele Mdoda whose enthusiasm and presence barely made up for her lack of comedy. Minki van der Westhuizen served as little more than a spoonful of sugar to help Hofmeyr’s medicine go down. Uttering the always lethal “I’m a bit nervous”, the fashion model stumbled and stuttered her way through the set (mild diaphragm confusion included) and provided audience and viewer with several cringeworthy moments.

The nervous and limp jokes of Kau were completely obliterated by the forthright quips of Casper de Vries who quickly got into the spirit of the roast and liberally abused Hofmeyr and members of the panel in mostly hilarious fashion. His performance was a well-timed shot in the arm for the show and the only self-assured delivery of the evening.

Final roaster Shaleen Surtie-Richards provided a confused rant before delivering a flat self-parody with overt sexual references that was painful to watch for the most part and felt out of place.

Hofmeyr’s eventual barbed response to the panel countered practically every insult that had earlier been thrown his way and he ended the show unapologetic and none the worse for wear. His parting comments of “when does the roast start?” and “I’ve made a career out of ending Steve Hofmeyr’s career” summed up the entire show and left me asking “what was the point?”

In a country where entertainers currently have benign public respect for one another it remains to be seen whether many more South African celebrities will volunteer themselves for roasting and if comedians are willing to step up and rock the boat. Our comic climate has thus far thrived more on witty perceptive and intelligent banter than the cutting, obvious jibes roasts are famous for. Although the roast of Hofmeyr was a brave stab at bringing a US comedy institution to South African shores, the scratchy atmosphere is perhaps a sign that this form of humour doesn’t translate as well locally.

Comedy Central will do well to use the roast of Steve Hofmeyr as an experiment in order to evaluate South Africa’s entertainment climate and should proceed with caution before attempting this medium again without careful planning and astute adjustment.

Frisco Rosso

With more tension than your mother’s suspension, I am Frisco Rosso. I’m likely to deliver a few lines worth at any given moment regarding film, music, sport, books and anything morally unsound that strikes a blow between the eyes in the name of entertainment.


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