Each generation produces its own comics, who speak to their particular time. Lottering recalls that when he emerged, alongside David Kau, comics were required to produce a 60-minute one man show, performed in a theatre. Now, comedy happens in bars and small venues – delivered in rapid fire five-minute interludes, in a time where the Goliath and Goliath comedy brand is shaping new spaces for the genre to thrive. The direction has reversed.
The hunger evident in new comics in the industry astonishes Lottering. “Yoh, I marvel at their commitment, even the newer comics, people who don’t have a lot of money jumping in Ubers to go to an open mic in Melville and then go from Melville to the other side, all on the same night, just for this damn microphone … the hustle is real.”
A chance career
Lottering’s life story, condensed, tells of how a 30-year-old man from Retreat on the Cape Flats, who studied law at university (while working as an usher at the Baxter Theatre) became one of South Africa’s most loved comedians, almost by chance.
While working as a project manager in advertising, with some stage musical experience, Lottering decided to try comedy at the urging of a friend – the editor and journalist Marianne Thamm, after Friday nights spent swapping stories over wine. He booked The Coffee Lounge in Cape Town’s City Bowl as an intimate venue and staged his first show, After the Beep, in 1997, while his partner and supporters stood nervously in the back of the room.
“They couldn’t believe it was happening,” he says, while laughing. But the show was a great success. The owner of the venue asked Lottering to come back every night for the next two weeks. He never returned to his day job.
It seems impossible to imagine a South African entertainment landscape without Lottering. Decades after After the Beep, he has cemented his place in South Africa’s culture, and in the process has become an institution. Namechecked in a rap song, with his instantly recognisable face and silver-striped hair, 2019 is Marc Lottering’s coming of age.