Comedians show us the good, the bad and the ugly about ourselves. Like Aristotle, Bruce Little, the creator and star of Little Poof! A Homofabulous Show, believes that art is a creative reflection of society. In fact, comedy as an art form dates back to Aristotle’s time, with the word itself derived from classic Greek, meaning “village revel” or “celebration”. In Athenian democracy, comic poets influenced the way people voted.
For Little, comedy remains a serious craft, “because it can be the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down”. “Art or theatre has to reflect what society needs,” he says. “South Africans know enough about Aids, pain, loss and death and they experience enough crime, stress and worry about money, so when they spend money on entertainment it has to be uplifting.” Little believes comedy is an art that is often underestimated. It is not always easy to be funny, he says. “To maintain the comedy is the craft, the art form.”
Stand-up comedy as we know it was born in the 1970s, following the cultural revolution of the 1960s. A new kind of anti-establishment comic emerged, one who is edgier, younger and more confrontational. While Little’s work is entertaining, it carries a social message too.
He makes strong statements about the negative associations about being gay and deals with issues surrounding ignorance, prejudice, homophobia and love. The piece is informed by Little’s own experiences of being bullied on suspicion of being gay. “The situations we laugh at are often serious issues, and making it comical helps the audience and me to deal with it better,” he says.
Comedian Mark Sampson believes comedians play a crucial role in society. “Comedians provide a release valve for a community,” he says. “Comedy brings people together to make them think as well as laugh.” Sampson says the true art of comedy is being original with a unique comic concept.