A decade since he performed his first one-man show, John Vlismas brings his new show back to where it all began, writes Helen Herimbi.
According to his Wikipedia page – yes, his presence on the World Wide Web is all that and a bag of chips – John Vlismas is 38 years old. Which just makes it unfair that he doesn’t even have a trace of a laugh line, while the rest of us have plenty thanks to giggling like schoolgirls at a Justin Bieber concert whenever Vlismas is on stage.
But his newest one-man show is not just a number; it is actually titled .38, which draws one’s attention to the special bullets used in revolvers.
At close range, it may seem that a one-man show is just part of the job of a stand-up comedian. But his shows, from Thursday to Saturday, will be very different and special to this comic.
He tells me: “I’m now 38, which is a high-calibre age,” before he chuckles to himself.
Ten years ago, Vlismas stepped onto the On Broadway stage and performed his first one-man show. Back then, he wasn’t the hotshot columnist or radio DJ he is now.
He wasn’t the co-founder of the Comedy Underground on Sundays, the longest-running and still liveliest comedy night in the country, held at Cool Runnings in Melville in Joburg. And he certainly didn’t have the idea to start a comedy awards ceremony that is essentially a movement to unite all practitioners of South African comedy. Every Mzansi comedian is encouraged to be a part of the Comics Choice Awards, which had their inaugural ceremony this year.
Back then, Vlismas was just an ordinary 20-something with an extraordinary gift of the gab. He didn’t know it that opening night, though.
He laughs: “It was a terrifying experience. I was sitting backstage almost crying and I was just sitting there looking at the wigs on top of these mannequins’ heads, and they were staring back at me, and I can remember a man telling me to not touch the wigs.”
He may not have touched the wigs – but knowing Vlismas’s sense of humour, he probably did – but he kept going back to the stage and eventually started shooting his mouth off at plenty of local and international stages. The idea to come back to this particular stage was sparked by a recent show in Harare, Zimbabwe, the country of his birth.
“I remembered then that I really love doing a long show inside a theatre – it’s actually a privilege to be able to do that.”