Comedy Awards in South Africa are a Joke

I hate awards. All awards. From the Oscars and the GRAMMYs to the awards I’ve won and even judged. They’re all pointless distractions at best and actively harmful to progress at worst. Our need to be lauded for our work allows us to be manipulated and controlled and it allows gatekeepers to play kingmakers. Don’t believe me? Well, then you must not be aware that the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences was originally created to stop actors from unionising and that the Academy Awards were created because Louis B. Mayer wanted to exploit artists. 

In his own words: “I found that the best way to handle [filmmakers] was to hang medals all over them. […] If I got them cups and awards they’d kill themselves to produce what I wanted. That’s why the Academy Award was created.”

And there you have it, straight from the lion’s mouth. Fake incentives to motivate for real work. It’s genius, and we’ve fallen for it. Because guess what? Awards do have value in society. They are now a symbol of supposed excellence- even if it’s a hollow symbol. Perceptions are shaped, careers are furthered, and booking fees go up thanks to awards, but that doesn’t make them any more legitimate. Awards will always lack legitimacy because of politics and access. Some people can’t pay to enter the SAMAs so they’ll never win one. Other people are outsiders who create great work but don’t network their way in front of judges. So no awards will ever truly represent the best- they can’t. But they can at least try to be as legitimate as possible. Unless they’re an award for comedy in South Africa, then any semblance of legitimacy gets thrown out of the window. 

Comedy awards in South Africa are a unique brand of fucky. In past years we’ve dealt with the Comic’s Choice Awards, which were run by a comedy agency called Whacked Entertainment which was headed up by John Vlismas. No conflict of interest there right? Well, in 2018 one of their comedians got nominated for an award under sketchy circumstances which then saw Carvin Goldstone not accept the two awards he won, in protest. It was quite a thing. Now John has left Whacked and apparently he thinks the awards are a sham- after extracting everything he could from them before mutating into some kind of ungodly hybrid of Russell Brand and Gary Vee.

Anyway, this isn’t about the Comic’s Choice Awards because they don’t seem to be a thing this year. Instead, we have the SA Comedy Awards and somehow they’ve managed to delegitimise awards for comedy in SA even further. 

As far as I know, the awards are run by Kedibone Madlauzi, who is a comedian I don’t know personally but has been in the scene for a long time. Now, I don’t have any issues with Kedibone, I’ve been told he has good intentions (Although there’s the obvious conflict of interest). I do, however, have issues with the nominations for these awards and the lack fucks they seem to give about legitimacy. You see, there’s a category for ‘Best Podcast by a Comedian’ and they just so happened to nominate podcasts that didn’t exist at the time of nomination. The Dope Ass Show by Robby Collins, Loyiso Madinga, and Tats Nkonzo had only put out promo material and snippets of their podcast at the time of nomination. They have since released an episode and it’s fucking funny, I suggest you check it out. The other nominee was Carl Weber, who is fantastic on radio and is a hilarious dude, but I genuinely haven’t been able to find his podcast anywhere (unless it’s the Happy Hour show with Dalin Oliver, but that’s a radio show, and it’s with another host).

I don’t have problems with any of these people. They’re all top-notch comedians who’ll rack up awards for the rest of their lives, and it’s not like they nominated themselves. I’d just like to know from the organisers why they were nominated for this particular award? Because it seems questionable as fuck to me. 

Now I know what you’re thinking, “Why are you going through all the effort to write hundreds of words about this when you could just ask them directly?” Well, because I did. I’ve asked the SA Comedy Awards team multiple times on social media how they could nominate podcasts that nobody had heard for their awards, and I’ve only gotten one flippant and dismissive response. They called it “teething problems”. Nominating podcasts you clearly haven’t listened to for awards is “teething problems”? Wild.

Then, on 5 December, about a month after the original nominations, they changed the nominees. Apparently, there are no rules to this thing, just vibes. Now The Dope Ass Show and Carl Weber are nowhere to be seen on the list, but SA Comedy Awards never addressed how or why. No accountability, no explanation, no nothing. So, maybe, just maybe, they’ll respond to this. I’m not holding my breath though because I’m not one of the cool kids in the comedy scene and there’s no benefit to earning my favour.

I’d hope I don’t have to explain how nominating podcasts that don’t exist for awards delegitimises the entire thing, but in case you’re not picking up what I’m putting down, this means that nominees were obviously selected via looking at what’s popping on the timeline and not by actually engaging with the work. It’s incredibly disrespectful to the growing number of comedians who have been putting the time into podcasting to say “These are the best podcasts by comedians,” when nobody has even heard them. And it’s even more disrespectful to the other nominees who deserve to be there but now their nominations are tainted because of the laziness of the organisers.

And here’s the thing: If they didn’t listen to the podcasts before nominating them, they obviously didn’t watch or engage with all the work in the other categories either. I haven’t looked at the other nominations because I don’t care enough to, but there are probably irregularities all over the place.

It’s frustrating to be the only comedian who really seems to be making any noise about this, especially when I hate awards as an entire concept, but maybe other comedians don’t see these awards as legitimate either and couldn’t be bothered? That, or they don’t want to ruin their chances of calling themselves an award winner. Even illegitimate awards can bump up your prestige if the people reading your bio don’t know they’re illegitimate.

Well, now you at least know, and whatever you do with the information is your vibe. Me? I’m just gonna go back to doing my thing without worrying about being awarded for it. I just want comedy in SA to be a little bit less fucky for once. If you are going to give out awards, please just at least pretend to make them seem legit.

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