Marc my words

Marc my words

Funny man Marc Lottering talks ‘real’ jobs, the economy and his new show.
By Lauren Shapiro

I spot him from behind. I’d know that ’fro anywhere. Marc Lottering fits right in at this trendy coffee shop in Green Point, sipping his flat white over a croissant with scrambled egg. The man is a snappy dresser. His jeans and Converse sneakers (he’d probably call them ‘tekkies’) are matched by a crisp white shirt, buttoned up to the neck. His stylish black jacket is draped over the chair behind him. He greets me warmly, and I see that huge smile of his is not reserved for the stage.

Breaking the law

‘You studied law,’ I begin as a waitron casually sets down my cappuccino, totally unfazed that he’s standing beside a superstar of South African comedy (Lottering’s a regular here). ‘Seriously? Law? I would never have guessed!’

Lottering smiles – he does that a lot – and shakes his head. ‘I grew up watching TV shows like L.A. Law,’ he states by way of explanation. ‘They were so slick and had so much fun at bars after work – in designer suits!’ he adds with a twinkle in his eye. On that sensible basis, Lottering signed up for a law degree at UCT after graduating from Boston House College in Cape Town in 1988.

As it turns out, there’s more to law than cocktails and couture. ‘I eventually left UCT,’ Lottering, now 48, confides. ‘I kind of had to. Things went steadily downhill after second year.’ He then cups his hand around his mouth as if he is telling me a secret, but the showman in him doesn’t drop his voice. ‘It’s very hard when one does not attend lectures.’

‘So how did you get into comedy?’ I probe. ‘The only connection I can see between lawyers and comedians is that they both stand up. And maybe the suits.’ Lottering chuckles graciously at my joke. He relates how, after a few tequilas at his 30th birthday party, he grabbed the mic and began entertaining his friends with stories of life growing up on the Cape Flats. The laughter flowed, and the proprietor of the coffee bar invited him to repeat the ‘act’ the following night, for the paying public. ‘We were sold out for the next two weeks,’ he recalls with a grin. ‘Rock ’n’ roll, baby! And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing ever since.’

’Fros and fame

A few years into his new career, Lottering began growing his hair ‘simply because so much of my early work centred around the importance of hair texture on the Flats,’ he says. ‘People began associating me with the Afro. I was very comfortable with that, so it stayed.’

And that signature white stripe? ‘It’s been there since birth, but it’s more obvious now that I’ve grown it out,’ he replies. ‘Honestly, I didn’t realise it was a thing until everyone told me it was a thing.’

Fortunately, the fame hasn’t gone to his ’fro. ‘I don’t take the celebrity side of life too seriously,’ he insists, waving his hand as if to get rid of the bothersome issue. ‘It would be silly. I am in the business of making people feel good. That’s what’s important to me.’

Funny business

I’m sure many of you, like me, want to know if it’s possible to make a living out of comedy. ‘It’s absolutely a “real” job,’ Lottering laughs, when I ask. ‘It’s great getting paid handsomely for something that you really love doing.’ Naturally, you have to be good at it, too, and his string of accolades – which include several prestigious Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards – prove that Lottering is very good indeed.

His favourite pastime is people-watching (‘and eavesdropping!’ he inserts eagerly, ‘particularly if it’s a juicy conversation’). He finds inspiration for his acts in the people around him, resulting in several endearing characters, such as Aunty Merle (his ‘first love’), Smiley the taxi dude, Colleen the cashier, Galatia the wannabe pop star, and the outrageous Pastor Brandon.

‘For me, everything and everyone is fair game, provided you are clever and funny about it,’ Lottering maintains. ‘But I am not destructive. That’s my bottom line: I should be able to look everyone in the eye afterwards.’

All well and good, but what do you do if they don’t laugh? ‘Ha! You move on very quickly, Darling,’ Lottering retorts. ‘I have a little bag of lifesavers somewhere at the back of my brain, and I reach for it should that horrific moment of silence descend. It’s bound to happen at some stage, particularly when you try new material,’ he points out. Luckily, he says, it doesn’t happen often!


Home and away

When he’s not performing locally, Lottering entertains homesick South Africans abroad. He’s graced the stage of London’s Royal Albert Hall as part of the Bafunny Bafunny comedy tour in 2010. He’s done Canada and New Zealand (2011), Australia and the UK – again (2014), and Dubai in May this year. ‘My target audience is South Africans, regardless of where in the world I’m performing,’ Lottering declares.

He’s not a politician, he assures me, but that doesn’t stop him talking politics. ‘It’s a sad, interesting mess,’ he says of our current political landscape. ‘Sad for citizens, but interesting for comedians. I would love to have [Speaker of the National Assembly] Baleka Mbete’s job for one day,’ he reveals gleefully. ‘But I’d like to do it with a bottle of Jameson. That could be fabulous!’

Lottering is as opinionated about the economy. ‘I travel quite a bit, so I think about the economy when I’m trying to get coffee and a sandwich with rands. Nobody multiplies better than a South African – without a calculator! I guess the upside is that we have become good mathematicians. Things can only get better from here on.’

Getting social

Social media has had a huge impact on the comedy circuit in recent years. ‘It challenges comedians, in that it keeps us on our toes,’ Lottering notes. ‘Some fans tweet your gags, and then it’s out there, so you have to keep coming up with fresh stuff. That’s a good thing.’

With an impressive 80 000 Twitter followers (plus 10 000 on Facebook and 16 000 on Instagram), Lottering’s reach is pretty formidable. In his new show, Hash Tag Lottering!, the comedian cautions us against the dangers of social media (such as the perilous WhatsApp family group), before delving into an array of fresh topics – from why funerals are fabulous, to the beauty of the pepper-steak pie. The show was sold out in Durban and PE earlier this year and is set for rave reviews in Joburg and Cape Town. Do yourself a favour and grab a ticket before they’re gone.

As the bill arrives, I wonder what Lottering’s next feat will be. He leans back and looks thoughtful. ‘You know, I like what I am doing right now: making South Africans smile.’ I couldn’t ask
for more.’

Photography:  Courtesy images
August/September 2016


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