What do former Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas, Nigerian celebrity comedian Basketmouth and DJ Dino Bravo all have in common?  They took part in this year’s incredible 7th Annual South African Savanna Comics’ Choice Awards® (Savanna CCA).

Famed for being the largest gathering of comedy talent on the continent, this annual variety show features some of the greatest comedians that Africa has to offer — as celebrities, journalists and ministers join the entire comedy industry to honour the best of the best.  

Themed ‘The Freedom of Funny’, the 2017 instalment celebrated the power that humour has to break down barriers and open borders between African countries and encourage the free flow of comedy talent.

It was the first year the Savanna Pan-African Award was handed out with the five nominees being flown in from Nigeria, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Angola and Lesotho to join their South African counterparts at the glamorous awards evening. Comedians vote for their fellow comedians, meaning that a Waldo (the award’s statuette), is one of the highest accolades that an African comedian can receive, with many recipients going on to further their careers after winning a Waldo.

Staying true to the ‘Freedom of Funny’, the gist of the show was a hilarious parody of current affairs, with Hlaudi Motsoeneng (played by previous Savanna CCA award winner KG Mokgadi) interrupting the show to take over and ‘save it’ with a budget of R200-million. Comedy sketches were interwoven with stand-up as the 11 awards were handed out. As acknowledgement to the original Gupta whistle-blower, it seemed only fitting that Mcebisi Jonas was invited to present the Waldo to this year’s Savanna Comic of the Year. 

This year’s Waldo recipients are:

For selling out at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and his highly successful tour of Australia, Loyiso Gola won the coveted Breakthrough Award, which is bestowed upon an act whose achievement elevates South African comedy significantly.

Up-and-coming contender Thabiso Mhlongo won the hotly contested Savanna Newcomer of the Year category with previous newcomer winner Ebenhaezer Dibakwane scooping the Intermediate Award.

Funnyman Salesman (Collen Chepi) received the Non-English Comic Award for his hilarious vernacular routines. Mojak Lehoko received the Comic’s Pen Award for his outstanding writing on several local television productions.

The Nando’s Best Friend of Comedy was awarded to Goliath & Goliath for the third time for their ongoing support and facilitation of South African comedy.

Acknowledging that the audience is a huge player in the industry, the Audience Choice Award is the only category where the public can vote — and this year’s Waldo went to Elton Mduduzi Ntuli. This is the second time Elton has received this award and it is testament to the massive amount of effort he put into campaigning for public votes.

Skhumba Hlophe scooped two awards this year – both to huge applause from the audience. First was The Flying Solo Award for his hugely successful one-man-show #1STOFALL. Second was the apex of the Savanna CCA’s, The Savanna Comic of the Year, which acknowledged the incredible hard work Skhumba has put into his craft and his career in the last year.

Hailing from Nigeria, the inaugural Savanna Pan-African Comic of the Year Award went to Basketmouth (Bright Okpocha), a revered celebrity worldwide and one of the hardest working comedians in Africa.  Performing in different countries weekly, it’s no wonder he has over 7,6m followers on social media and arrived in SA to an entourage of adoring fans.

John Vlismas directed the show and was most proud of the tribute to the late Cyril Green, who was announced as the Lifetime Achiever recipient shortly before he passed away in July. A show highlight and a poignant finale was the beautifully moving, somewhat eerie tribute that comprised an animated montage of photos and press clippings from Cyril’s career projected as an old film onto the white steam-punk dress of vocalist Ani Appleseed (Anika Reinecke). While Ani sang a heart-rending ballade for the tribute, consummate clowning professional Bevan Cullinan played the part of the Grim Reaper to deliver the final #Goodbye.

The awards and after party took place on 9 September at the Lyric Theatre at Gold Reef City.  Keep an eye on the event’s social media pages or visit www.comicschoice.com for news of next year’s event. And stay close to VUZU Amp DStv Channel 103 in the coming weeks when a Savanna CCA special will air highlights from this year’s awards show.

The best comedy has the best partners and the awards extend a big thanks to its much-loved partners, Savanna Premium Cider, Nando’s, VUZU Amp, Sunday World and Kaya FM 95.9