Saturday, 28 September 2019 00:10 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

CAVIAR TO THE GENERAL: Not, as is popularly fancied, a refined treat for discerning sophisticates in Shakespeare’s time… But rather, a then common and filling food for the common masses – And if these ‘four Horsemen of the Apoi-calypse’ were to season their salty jokes with a dash of satire and a sprinkling of sitdown-to-think, stand-up would be soup for the soul indeed


By W. T. F. U’buga

Something funny happened on the way to the Wendt. Comedy became slapstick. Slapstick slipped into farce. Farce fell down on its face and stood up as satire. Stand-up has now become all the rage. And it’s not funny.

Of course, the biggest problem is that it is very, very funny. Put four raging narcissists on stage and they’ll be a hoot and a half. Even if they’re politically incorrect! Especially if they’re politically incorrect! And particularly if they have an axe to grind against the incorrectly political subject matter…

And there’s plenty of material to make mincemeat of in Sri Lanka these days, no? From political shenanigans that leave us not knowing whether to laugh or cry, to social and sexual politics, and everything in-between. If you saw the show, you’d know that it’s these in-between things that got the most belly laughs. These guys knew how to tickle the funny bone in the same breath as scraping the bottom of the barrel, lock and stock – no holds barred. 

Then again, Colombo audiences are notoriously easy to please. Drop a B here or an F there, and Bob’s your uncle. Don’t ask whose uncle Bob is. This is no-holds-barred exposé-style stand-up. Bob might turn out to be the nasty uncle next door who copped a feel of you when you were a blushing youth.

Which brings me to Pasan Ranaweera, on his maiden outing in stand-up. A virgin at the game, the former Cyril Nitharamasuffering of Pusswedilla fame was a revelation in his own right. On top of confessions that exposed the dark underbelly of society, there were plenty of pointed jibes at the expense of the political, social and sexual powers that be. To add insult to injury, Pasan invoked parliamentary privilege in this forum … after all, he said, if Vasu can do it in the House, why not him here? 

And here comes Dominic Kellar, the ex-‘King’ of Arsikland and Duke of Dutch-Burgherdom, making a timely comeback. Dom, as he is popularly known, didn’t spare anybody. Family members, friends, fiends on the national landscape – all took a chutti beating. Doesn’t spare the rod, this boy! But in a careful controlled sort of way, Kellar was the seller of a brand of medicine that is good for causing chaos among the pious and the pretentious. More power to you!

Quite the anti-thesis is Dino Corera. Quiet, controlled, diabolically charming (“he only dates models,” said a co-conspirator on stage), his schoolboyish charm had aunties swooning and uncles crooning. Despite his genteel approach to all these things ill, sick and funny in a peculiar way, Dino is by far the most subversive of this lot. Why, you almost have to think to get his brand of humour. And a good thing too, because stand-up could – or should – be more than about smiling all the way to the bank… or the bathroom – to throw up.

Which brings me last, but by no means least, to the most raging narcissist of them all: Gehan Blok. No doubt brought up nicely, this bad boy of political incorrectness demonstrated why this show has an R rating (my heavens, it should have been X!). If Dom didn’t spare the rod, Gehan bent them over backwards and thrashed them until they were blue… no, black and blue… he has a thing for Thomians, evidently? But this Blok-head is a democrat when it comes to education – girls’ schools especially felt the brunt of his manic probing. For shame, mate! (“But it’s called ‘politically incorrect’, no? Uncle knows…”)

Ay, there’s the rub. If the producers are going to call it Politically Incorrect, it gives them licence to rub all the sacred cows the wrong way. So faux-faiths doing the rounds in town today, pariah politicos drowning the nation in their sh*t since before the Flood and a host of other naughty, nasty and even not-so-nice denizens of Sri Lanka got their comeuppance in public. And if audiences are going to be suckered – er, succoured – into putting down good money (“thank you so much for coming, ah” – pointing to the front rows – “and, oh, y’all also” – a nod to the hoi polloi in the balcony) for a show so titled, so be it.

I’m not quibbling – much… because God and Gota know that we need something to smile about after almost five years of Good Governance and seemingly unending decades of polite society. So in a production that pulls no punches when it comes to taking down false idols, I’m on the side of the angels. But maybe I’m quibbling a bit about the motive, opportunity and weapon of choice to do sick society in. 

In a theatre milieu starved for even two-star entertainment, here was Michelin fare – if hardly food for thought. Because there was a (missed, I feel) opportunity to make a captive audience think: of the issue as well as possible resolutions. Sorry, this is the giddy limit; straight out of the Wendt, I’m going out to challenge and change the world – said no one, as they exited. Rather, it was a niggling worry about how late the show would go on for. In fact, that annoying aunty next to me at the matinee insisted on calling – “aney, meya, I’m running about an hour late, aiyo, but so good, child!” – to cancel.

So I for one – and I suspect I am in a minority – would postpone the perhaps premature congratulations. Stand-up (like what passes for satire in Sri Lanka) has still to come of age. Entertaining to the hilt? Check. Edifying to a certain extent? Not sure. Because we’re all laughing at what we already know. And by the way, we’re laughing at ourselves and our problems. Which is welcome relief – though it’s not quite a remedy that we need oh so badly. Excellent chance to critically engage the follies and foibles of sundry folks? For sure. But a little less scurrilous about hapless schoolgirls, if you would, dear! These are least of what’s politically incorrect – or incorrectly political – in Sri Lanka these days…

Politically Incorrect

  • Featuring four stand-up artistes
  • Produced by Dino Corera
  • Directed by Gehan Blok
  • Staged on Friday/Saturday/Sunday (including a matinee at 10.30 am)/Monday 20-23 September, 7:30 p.m. at the Lionel Wendt Auditorium