Comedy is the purest platform for freedom of speech, with comedians given loads of leeway to speak their minds, says Angel Campey.
She’s a stand-up comedian, presents a comedy-centric radio show on Smile 90.4FM each Sunday, and is one of the writers for the award-winning TV comedy ZANews Puppet Nation. She’s played in New York and Montreal, and performed the two comedy shows Yes, Really Angel and Devil’s Advocate at the National Arts Festival. A career highlight was being chosen by Nigerian comedian Basketmouth to perform in his show Lords of The Ribs to 4 000 people in Lagos in October 2017.
She first ventured onto stage in 2011 and reached the finals of the Joe Parker Comedy Showdown competition, then went on to become a regular on Comedy Central’s Kings and Queens of Comedy.
Campey likes to joke about the complicated political dynamics of white privilege from the perspective of a woman who grew up during the pivotal changes in South Africa. “I find the material that really lands and resonates is when I start talking about my politics and my opinion on my race — and my family stories. It’s very vulnerable comedy because it’s pure and honest, and if the crowd rejects it, they aren’t rejecting my opinions on something easy like airplane food, they’re rejecting my core opinions.
“But it’s also a platform that can influence social change, and I address things like our privilege and the legacy of apartheid, and perhaps start a conversation in people’s minds about things they hadn’t thought of a certain way before,” she says.
“Comedy is one of the last pure bastions of freedom of speech, and I get away with saying things that many other creatives would be hung out to dry for. So it’s my responsibility as a South African to push that limit.”
The result, she hopes, will be a meeting of minds around shared laughter. “I hope to keep using my personal observations and life stories to facilitate difficult conversations from the safety of laughter and joy,” she says.
“It’s a truly humbling and joyful thing to be able to reach so many people, cross culturally and internationally with laughter. Being a comedian has shown me how similar we all are, no matter where we are from.” — Lesley Stones