Comedy with heart

Posted: September 15, 2009 in Uncategorized
Marks Sampson feels funny

Marks Sampson feels funny

Performance:  Mark Sampson feels funny

Review:  Astrid Stark 

First published in Cape Times, 14 September ’09

It was Charlie Chaplin who said, “To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it”.   When comedian Mark Sampson’s father suffered from another stroke, his mum called him to England and said, ‘this is the one’.  Sampson held the dying man’s hand and he was the one who closed his father’s eyes for the last time.  The comedian then went on to have a comprehensive breakdown complete with bouts of mania and fistfuls of anti-depressants.

All this, and a lot more, Sampson shares with his audience during his show, Mark Sampson feels funny.  Sampson explains that his father’s passing was cathartic and that it was, and still is, the inspiration for his show.  Finding humour in tragedy is a form a therapy and that life is not necessarily about winning the game, but how you play it, are the messages Sampson imparts on his audience.  She show is a mixed bag of comedy, drama and motivational interactive theatre.    Sampson uses a giant snakes and ladders board to illustrate the game of life. He then he kicks a metre-wide inflated dice into the audience which determines the course of the evening’s events.  On the evening we had a few late-comers who were punished by having to do a bit of pole dancing, the front row of the audience performed a fabulous river dance, and there were some unconventional kissing and spanking thrown in for kicks.

The extremes between comedy and tragedy can create powerful emotions, and for the most part, Sampson has his audience captivated as he shares very intimate experiences and invites the audience to contribute their life stories.  He is a bit of a dreadlocked Peter Pan meets Eminem, skateboarding, surfing, whale whispering raconteur. He calls himself a white ‘bergie’.  At the bottom of it all he’s an engaging story teller whose sincerity will win over most hearts.  He seems to have accumulated himself quite a loyal posse over the last few years; his last show, Missing Links, sold out twice in Cape Town.

The performance relies heavily on audience participation and whilst the crowd on the evening were responsive, it did feel a little as if the show did not quite reach the climax that it could, sagging a little in places.  Some felt that the sharing of the personal highs and lows went on a bit too long for comedy; with too little laughter. I quite enjoyed the intimacy and oddity of sharing your most private painful experiences with a hundred strangers.

Sampson’s strength lies in taking a suggestion, or a story, and running crazily and very funnily with it until his next brain wave comes along. If the audience’s suggestions are lacking or a bit dull then he has to improvise like crazy, which he does greatly for the most part. There are a few stale jokes than can get the boot.  His observations about the often incongruous South African culture and lifestyle, which we sometimes overlook, are hilarious and very sharp.  Sampson urges his audience to embrace all the craziness that comes with living in a developing country. His take is that developed countries as controlled and boring and that few opportunities remain for entrepreneurs. It’s all about turning those snakes into ladders.   

Originally from Cornwall, England, Sampson came to South Africa on a surfing holiday.   He decided to stay and founded the Cape Comedy Collective and coined the phrase, ‘comedy for the people, by the people’. He was also the convener of the Comedy Lab that has produced some of our finest comedians such as Kurt Schoonraad, Riaad Moosa, Stuart Taylor, and Nik Rabinowitz.  Runs until 19 September.

Tickets are R100 per person.  Book through the theatre’s box office on 021 438-3300, or

through Computicket’s call centre on 083 915 8000 (

The End

  1. Tonia van der Merwe. says:


    Jy skryf wonderlik !

    Liefde groete,


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