By Helen Herimbi

Knock knock? Who’s there?

The South African Comedy Awards, of course. OK, so I am not a comedian, but the first (ever) Comedy Awards promise to honour the professionals. On September 17, deserving stand-up comedians, funny actors, writers and others will be awarded at the Artscape Theatre in Cape Town. The ceremony will also be broadcast on SABC2 in October for those who couldn’t attend.

CEO of the Comedy Awards, Sam Hendrikse, realised the need for such an awards show. “Two years ago I got to a point where I reflected on the industry and how we’ve grown in the different levels of performance,” and acted upon it. “I looked at it and thought I wasn’t that challenged anymore by local comedy, so I cut my ties and started the comedy awards.”

But why not just reward the comedians through acknowledgement? Why go for the glittering affair that is promised in Cape Town?

“Creating an awards ceremony proves that we have a cohesive industry and it’s not a figment of our imaginations. Awards show the quality of our work. They’ll make this a more developed industry and make the audience trust that our work is credible.

“We need to create an A level, a B level and a development level of comedy, so that people can trust spending their money wisely.”

And his money is on the well-deserving comedians who are nominated in this year’s 11 awards.

Riaad Moosa’s Strictly Halaal comedy show has earned him the most nominations, with the comedy doctor receiving three nods.

One is lanky stand-up comic Loyiso Gola, who is nominated in the Best Breakthrough Act. “Up-and-coming comedians like Loyiso Gola are hugely relevant in this country, but comedy can be very risky.”

Hendrikse, who is a patron of comedy, has been a “pro-active producer of comedy” for the past 15 years. He helped springboard the careers of some of the industry’s most celebrated comedians, such as John Vlismas and David Kau.

The latter has recently embarked on a one-man show of his stand-up act, while the former is a nominee at this year’s awards. And, even though they are both vastly talented, they don’t share the kudos. But it is good to bear in mind that this is only the first year of the awards and Hendrikse still has big plans.

“We wanted to do a number of things,” he begins. “Like firstly a TV show that will be broadcast to the whole country to let people see what we are doing. So it will be seen on SABC2 on a Saturday at 8pm. The confirmed host is Bad Boy T, he’s got great energy and I really like him. We’re writing a really great opening for him.

“We also made sure the judges are credible and that they understand the industry. They have to have a fair and balanced opinion on categories, so I’m very happy about the judging system.”

How comedians, seasoned and new, feel about the first SA comedy awards:

Joe Mafela: “It’s great that the class of comedy will be raised and that there are people who are concentrating on comedy. In the past, comedy was just one item on the agenda, but now different kinds of comedy will be acknowledged. I congratulate the organisers, because we’ve been talking about it for many years and I’m happy that at least someone’s done something about it.”

Loyiso Gola: “It’s cool, you work hard to get rewarded, because it’s not like I’m one of those motherf***s who hope NOT to win. I don’t know about that Matshikiza chick, so basically it’s just between me and Riaad. No, I’m kidding. Riaad is cool. I respect him. He was around when I started. I’ve never been nominated for anything. Ever. Not even school president.”

This article appeared in Tonight on 23 August 2007.