COMEDY REVIEW: Loyiso Gola: Pop Culture @ The Stand, Newcastle (22.10.21) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

Narc. Magazine Online

Reliably informed

Since the doors to fun, culture and pretending an ongoing global pandemic isn’t still raging were flung open, I’ve been out enjoying all the stuff I missed, having incredible experiences with audiences and artists.

My reintegration into collective experiences assured, nothing prepared me for what went down this night as Loyiso Gola dealt with a crowd so obtuse, so mindlessly unaware, that the comedian was forced to explain not only how comedy gigs work but how comedy itself works, right down to what jokes are.

Picking up where his fantastic Netflix special Unlearning left off, the new show sees Gola riffing about race, identity and politics through the lens of pop culture. The South African antidote to western cultural and political imperialism, Gola comes down hard on white exceptionalism, lazy stereotypes and racial privilege, wrapping his material in layers that reward attention.

For whatever reason, a sizeable chunk of the audience took his opening crowdwork as an invitation to engage in an interminable back-and-forth that nearly derailed the whole show. With Gola barely able to get through a line before the crowd gobshitery kicked back in, the first 45 minutes was a knife-edge experience, like being at a ‘bring your socially inept friend to a comedy show’ special.

Grinding for over two decades, Gola trailed a slew of sold-out shows, a critically-acclaimed Netflix special and two Emmy nominations behind him, so seeing him up there leaning against the wall face in hand and talking about why suicide might not be a bad option, it was clear it wasn’t him, it was us.

Losing a sizeable chunk of his first hour, Gola explained he had brought a show and asked if we’d like to hear it. My heart swelled when the silent majority in the room erupted into cheers. I thought we’d made it, but no. Whether it was alcohol or post-lockdown fever, every time he built momentum another non sequitur was blurted out, every interaction with the audience devolving into madness as someone attempted to out-funny Gola to cripplingly embarrassing effect.

Gola nailed the second half by turning off every filter he had and brutally suppressing the slightest callout. Delivering a near three-hour set and bouncing off a young couple in the front row – later credited with saving the entire night – Gola deep-dived into ‘woke’ culture and bleeding-edge progressivism, analysing the modern world and his place in it.

One of the most disarming things Gola did – after destroying what the west has done to the rest of the world – was to subvert the setup of him being some Righteous Messenger from The Dark Continent here to put white privilege in its place, flipping the spotlight onto himself to admit his ignorance in the face of a fast-changing world, particularly when it comes to issues of gender and identity.

Balancing heavier stuff with a dissection of western culture and some beautifully-painted observations, including indecipherable airline pilots and South African dubbed Spider-Man ‘Rabobi’, Gola was warm, self-effacing, insightful and deserved better.

Understandably never truly hitting his stride, I feel criminally short-changed and sorry Gola had to deal with what he did. Ultimately, I can’t wait until Pop Culture lands on Netflix and I can watch the show I turned up for.

Anyone going up on stage deserves an audience there with them, not in opposition to them, and a venue willing to curate that experience. When we’ve spent so much time apart, let’s make a point when we come together to appreciate we made it, open up to sharing an experience, and make sure to give ourselves and the act no less than we all deserve.

Like this story? Share it!

Subscribe to our mailout