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Man with original pirate material

Independent Online
Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The Jive Funny Festival, which is now in its ninth year, always presents a mix of the familiar with the foreign – but it’s all funny. Somali-born UK comedian Prince Abdi spoke to Helen Herimbi.

TO Prince Abdi1

Prince Abdi

‘Cape Town here I come, the original pirate is sailing to you,” Prince Abdi ends his e-mail with this enthusiastic statement – oh, and a smiley face emoticon to boot.

Technical issues have made it impossible for us to speak on the phone, but that doesn’t mean the Somali (hence the “pirate” wink) comic is less excited about debuting his stand-up comedy – which is rich in storytelling – at the Jive Funny Festival.

Rolling around for the ninth year, the Funny Fest – which takes place at the Baxter Theatre from Monday to July 7 – has brought Jive Cooldrink on board as the new main sponsor and thus switched up the name a little, but the quality of comedy will, hopefully, remain unchanged.

Our very own Alan Committie reprises his role as MC for the month-long festival. Also representing South Africa at the festival are stand-up comedian and actor Siv Ngesi; funnyman and radio presenter Guy McDonald; the veteran of funny, Marc Lottering; and another stand-up comedian, Carl Wastie.

You can also expect to see Canadian clown Mooky Cornish and UK pianist Kev Orkian, who is a regular at the Funny Fest. The UK also lends us juggler Steve Rawlings; singer Wilfredo and UK-resident, although born in Somalia, Abdi.

“Expect nothing but belly laughs, Cape Town, or ask for your money back. From me, I’m rich,” says Abdi, who will be performing at the Jive Funny Festival for the first time.

But stand-up comedy wasn’t always on the list of viable career paths for Abdi. He actually spent time as a teacher before he decided he wanted to go to work and see adults. “Being a teacher was a little bit like being a stand-up comedian in that you had be in control and get the attention of your pupils,” he shares. “The only difference is the humour side.”

He says he’s had “about 14 different jobs”, including painter and paperboy, but “comedy is a very difficult artform and I’m learning every day. I love the buzz I get from it. I never got that buzz from any other job, which is why I quit my job as a teacher and took the risk to concentrate on comedy without having that much experience. My family went bonkers.”

Abdi’s family, who left Somalia in the 1980s, seem to be a big deal to him. He even shares that on his list of must-haves when he’s getting ready to do an engagement as long as this festival, is “internet for skyping my family and friends. I haven’t been away for this long before so we will see what happens, I might break down and call out for ‘Mommy!’”

Although he often returns to Somalia to visit – “I love it there! Do no mention this to UK immigration or they might deport me. The weather is amazing, the food is so fresh, people don’t age and the kids are so mature it’s quite scary,” he says – Abdi is often labelled as a Somali comic, even though he’s lived in London for most of his life.

On labels, Abdi says: “I’m a comedian who happens to be from Somalia. Labels will always be there, but it doesn’t really bother me, my focus is being funny on stage.

“I’ve been labelled a hip hop comedian, a muslim comedian, an Afro-Carribean comedian, an Anglo-Somali comedian. So labels will always be there, regardless.”

So will the stigma about South Africa being a no-go zone, it seems.

Abdi shares: “A lot of people are worried for me that I’m coming to South Africa, saying: ‘Don’t go, it’s too dangerous.’ I think they forget I’m from Somalia.”

I imagine a smiley face emoticon would’ve been in order after that sentence, too.

• The Jive Cape Town Funny Fest features Prince Abdi, Alan Committie, Mooky Cornish, Steve Rawlings, Siv Ngesi, Guy McDonald, Marc Lottering and more at the Baxter Concert Hall, Main Road, Rondebosch, from Monday to July 7 at 8pm. R150 at Computicket.


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