BANKSRUPT.  With Mark Banks.

Karen Rutter

There’s a very good reason why Mark Banks picked up a Lifetime Achiever prize at the Comics Choice Awards – an event in which one is nominated by one’s peers, one might add, which raises the bar significantly. It’s that he’s a consummate professional when it comes to comedy.

Long before local bars started hosting stand-up nights, when Marc Lottering was still doing am-dram musicals and Riaad Moosa hadn’t even started medical school, Banks was pioneering a form of solo performance that was the precursor of today’s South African comedy circuit. Irreverent, satirical, political and just downright rude, Banks was the original jokerman. Notorious for lampooning local critics at his shows, he didn’t give a feck. He’d often use different characters to voice his – or their – opinion of social matters, and again, he never held back. He never appeared partisan, either – those razor-sharp jibes poked everybody. PC was not a label applied to his shows.

Fast forward some 25 years, with appearances at the Royal Albert Hall, the Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal and countless spots across the country along the way, and Banks is still at it. Watching him in action in Banksrupt, at the Theatre on the Bay was a laugh-fest as always.

Butt end of a joke about Bellville

Vintage Mark Banks

The performance begins with film footage that spoofs up the origins of the very theatre he is performing in – cheeky, and very funny. Banks then divides the evening up into sections where he dishes the dirt as himself, and then in a variety of guises. The central theme is the moral, economic and spiritual insolvency of our contemporary society. Well, supposedly that’s the theme. But this being Banks, things tend to go all over the place – including into the audience – so fiscal matters aside, the evening could end up with oneself being the butt end of a joke about Bellville.

Banks takes on bankers and property moguls (Pam Golding, beware!), corrupt politicians and  crappy airlines and the perils of shopping at Checkers. His alter-egos sell unique adventure tours to South Africa (suicide taxi run, anyone?), and even add a poignant touch as a car guard. In contrast to the coterie of comics who’ve put on their summer season productions, Banks avoids the obvious targets (Doom, Trump, WhatsApp groups, Penny Sparrow, all of which have featured heavily) and instead takes a road less travelled. Frankly, it was a relief.

The pace is smooth, punctuated by Banks’ trademark delivery which is heavy on accented punchlines – which may look weird in print, but work well on stage. Without giving too much away – it always seems like one should have a spoiler alert in a review if one is going to repeat the lines a comic says in his show – Banksrupt is Banks at his vintage best. Wicked, outrageous,  and snarky, just the way we like him.

Where and when: Theatre on the Bay, January 31 – February 11

Book: Computicket