South African born comedian, director and writer CASPER DE VRIES let MELISSA COHEN in on some juicy details regarding his life, career and his latest creation and first English show, ‘Casper goes Kakie’, on at the Artscape Opera House until Saturday November 2.
Although you are renowned for your theatrical characters, who is Casper De Vries when he isn’t on stage?
I am a very shy person. I know that many wouldn’t say so, but I don’t like to be the centre of attention when I am not in character. I have grown up connected to my Afrikaans background and that is how I have been able to link my characters with my life. I have also recently found a love for art and painting in particular, so I am hoping to pursue something new and different in the arts from what people many know me for.
I know that theatre has been your life for a number of years now, but what first interested you in the art form, in particularly performing comedy?
It is really strange but from an early age I always wanted to imitate things and people that I had come across. Although, as I mentioned before, I am naturally a very shy guy, I eventually had the need to perform these imitations to people and see how they responded. Throughout my acting career, I have aimed to ensure that my audiences are entertained and go away having learnt something – this is something that performance is able to do.
What has been the most rewarding part of your job as a performer?
Wow; there are many rewarding moments that I have encountered throughout my career, but I think the most rewarding one is knowing that when I started performing there was no one with the same acts and skits as me and I feel like I have achieved something by creating a need for something that initially wasn’t there. Throughout the years I have pushed myself so that people can experience the Afrikaans subculture and learn my “Casper vocab” in order for me to be relatable to them.
Up until ‘Casper Goes Kakie’, all your previous shows were performed in Afrikaans. Is there any particular reason for that and hasn’t that limited your audience?
As I mentioned earlier, I have grown up surrounded by my Afrikaans heritage and I have always found it easy to make jokes in my home language. Over the years I have always been known as “that Afrikaans guy” and so many Afrikaans people have been able to relate to me. This hasn’t limited my audiences, because many of my English fans first saw me on TV shows or in commercials and they started following my work.
What inspired you to write Casper goes Kakie?
I recently decided to branch out and change my direction a bit and so I decided to write an English show, with the result being ‘Casper Goes Kakie’.
How would you like to be known and understood by the English speaking community in South Africa?
I would like to be recognised as a proud Afrikaans South African who has worthwhile life philosophies that transcends any culture. I attempt to layer each and every show of mine, leaving the audience thinking about what they have seen and I want that to resonate with my English audience too.
What can audiences expect with the show?
All of my shows make use of adult humour and for many people who have seen my previous productions, they will be able to relate to the material in ‘Casper Goes Kakie’, but even if you are a newcomer to my shows, it will be an entertaining evening. I will discuss instances in my career and share some new stuff with the audience. I will also have my dogs on stage with me while I perform, which adds an intimate feel, like you are sitting in my lounge with me throughout the show.
Throughout the years there has been a boom in the comedy industry in South Africa. What do you feel makes you a unique South African comedian?
I have always been interested in performing and I believe that some people are just meant to be funny and I feel like I am one of those people – it just comes naturally to me. I was also lucky enough to find my niche in the South African comedy industry a while back when comedy wasn’t that big and I was able to secure that niche.
If you weren’t doing theatre, what would you be doing?
As I mentioned earlier, I have found my new love in painting and so I would really like to take that further. I would have also liked to have my own travel programme on TV. I would just make sure that I am active in some aspect of the arts – that’s where my passions lie.
What advice can you give to aspiring actors, in particular, comedians?
I always say that if you get that feeling in your gut that reinforces that this is what you want to do and you don’t just want to do it just to be famous, your passion and talent will genuinely shine through. My life motto is you can make dreams come true if you believe in it.
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