Serious laughs come with a serious message

Performer: Loyiso Gola
Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Venue: Mantra on Russell
Until: April 22
Rating: ★★★★★


“So, guys, do you want to know what white privilege looks like?”

“You know that band, The Killers? No black band could ever call themselves THE KILLERS! They called themselves Earth, Wind and Fire,” comedian Loyiso Gola laughed.  

Winner of South African Comics’ Choice Award, Gola returns to this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival with his show Unlearning.

Using humour, he challenges stereotypes of masculinity and tackles white privilege.

“Are you guys sick of the cricket yet? Who the fuck cares about cricket?! I fucking hate cricket!”

The South African comedian instantly engages the crowd by chucking out the elephant in the room and dragging it back in when we’re ready to move on.

He re-enacts the recent exchange between cricketers David Warner and Quinton de Kock. A slur of shout-y swearing from Gola and laughter follows.

Despite the hilarity, a serious tone underpins the performance. Gola uses his show to encourage the audience to push back against society’s expectations.

It’s clear that he is a thinker and a philosopher who uses comedy to raise serious issues with his audience.

Gola uses a story of his relationship with his white South African childhood friend to explore these issues.

He begins when they were young, and how shocked he was to be offered a tuna sandwich by his friend’s mum, at 10am on a Tuesday, when his family only ate tuna once a year at Christmas.

In adulthood, another moment came at his friend’s bachelor party.

“Have you ever walked into a room and gone from feeling [Public Enemy member and reality TV star] Flavor Flav to Nelson Mandela in an instant?!”

“I was THE ONLY black guy at the club,” he says.

Despite their friendship, Gola says he and his friend lived different realities based on nothing more than their background. He uses this anecdote to remind the audience that racism is a current and persistent issue.

Gola’s charm and wit make him readily accessible and his delivery makes complex issues accessible too.

This comedy festival if you’re looking for stand up that’s relevant, relatable and fucked up funny, Gola is your man.