City Bowl resident Irit Noble is preparing for the first ever National Delphic Comedy Championships, which will take place later this month at the Artscape Theatre.
Ms Noble was chosen to represent the Western Cape and will compete against eight comedians from each of the other provinces – seven of whom are men.
This is first time that the Delphic Comedy Championships will be held in Cape Town.
The idea came about when the National Delphic Council wanted to bring about transformation to the arts industry and introduce competition, which will give artists more status.
The National Delphic Council belongs to a worldwide network, the International Delphic Council and is tasked with organising and promoting the Delphic Games, which involve presentations, exhibitions, competitions and other activities in art.
The National Delphic Comedy Championships celebrates creativity and expression through comedy, encouraging cultural understanding and tolerance through spoken word and laughter. It promotes the development of arts and culture in Africa, particularly in terms of empowering artists to become self-sustainable and professionally competitive at an international level and this forms part of the International Delphic Comedy Championships which take place in Johannesburg on Saturday September 30.
And Ms Noble could not have been more honoured to be chosen to represent Cape Town and the province – particularly during Women’s Month.
“I’m excited to come on stage with a bunch of dudes, and once again I’m one of the only girls, so it will be interesting to see what happens.”
And this especially since she had been off the scene for the past few months after her health took a turn for the worst.
Ms Noble’s career started in the late 90s, at the Cape Comedy Collective. “We never really knew what stand up comedy was at the time. It wasn’t big, and there were a few of us around like Stuart Taylor and Kurt Schoonraad of the Cape Town Comedy Club. We all performed at Armchair in Observatory back then – South African comedy arguably started there.”
She then performed at the first Smirnoff Comedy Festival held at the Baxter Theatre at the time, then decided to dabble in other things.
“I did hardcore stand-up, but people didn’t always appreciate it. My character was more cabaret, but more as a strong woman.”
In her time of branching out, she was also the ringmistress at Madame Zingara, which was housed at the Foreshore under the unfinished freeway. “I’ve done TV and radio among other things, and appeared on the Comedy Showcase. I’ve also participated in many women empowerment events and was a sex columnist for a magazine at one point.”
She said it had just been weeks after she returned on social media after she fell ill that she was nominated for the Delphic Championships.
“I’m extremely excited, I haven’t been onstage for over a year because I was recovering.”
And while her character was always deemed “too sexy” by other comedians, and her appearance was a large part of her stage persona, Ms Noble said that at the Delphic Championships, she is just going to come out as a, “normal woman – no Botox, no big hair. I didn’t even pluck my eyebrows. I just feel I can do whatever I want in heels or flats. My youth was taken from me when I fell ill, but it’s not important to me anymore.”
Asked about being a woman in comedy, Ms Noble said: “I don’t really know what it is to be a man in comedy, I guess, but generally, when you watch shows or watch stand up, there are so little women, but we are given a break in some way.”
She said last year during Women’s Month, she was in hospital getting a blood transfusion. “My physical femininity is different this year. My outlook on life is different this year. When I used to be on stage the way I looked was part of the package. I was always so feminine. Now I’m more of a woman and less feminine. I am more woman than I’ve ever been.”
Zolani Mkiva, the chairman of the National Delphic Council, which also hosts the Delphic Games, said the introduction of the Delphic Comedy Championship is an exciting moment for the organisation.
“It’s challenging for artists everywhere to enterprise themselves, so we have developed a formula similar to sports and have benchmarked ourselves according to that. Sports is competitive and we want to buy into that competition to create champions.
“Artists struggle because of funding. People fund sport all the time, so we are saying to our international artists join us and draw from this. We want to use this event to draw corporates to invest in it like they do in sport. We want artists who can sustain themselves.”
He said as an artist, you can be famous, but it doesn’t always equal fortune. “As a Delphic champion, you will reach fortune as well.”
He said Friday August 25, when the competition takes place, will be a start of the race for the arts. He said the Delphic Comedy Festival will become an annual affair at the Artscape for at least the next five years.
Mr Mkiva said the contestants were chosen from hundreds of entries in each province. “We asked various organisations to find the best person and nominate them. These nominations were sent to our selection committee. We are very happy with what we have chosen. For our first edition, it’s a diverse selection.”
The Delphic Comedy Championship will take place at the Artscape on Friday August 25, at 7pm.