Cape Town – Making a name for yourself on the Cape Town comedy scene is no joke, but one comedian is doing that while flying the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual (LGBTQIA+) flag.
Eugene Mathews, 36, started out as a taxi driver and it was behind the wheel that he honed his comedic skills. Passengers would laugh at the one-liners he shared as he drove them to their destinations, but it was one regular passenger who pushed Mathews on to the stage.
“One day, a customer from Hout Bay went to a comedy show in Long Street at the old Zula Bar and he invited me along. I picked him up to take him to the show and he said, why don’t you just park your cab and come and check it out,” says Mathews.
And the comedy bug bit. So began his new career, which included being part of the ensemble of Soli Philander’s online radio offering, Taxi Radio, and the show of the same name which broadcast on Cape Town TV.
“Nine years later, I’m still in the game,” said Mathews, who is part of the line-up for this year’s Mother City Comedy Festival at the Baxter Theatre.
Mathews is an accidental LGBTQIA+ comedy ambassador and says he was merely focused on giving this new career a go and making audiences chuckle.
“I never put any thought into it, until one day a friend told me that what I am doing is really important because there is no other openly gay comedian in Cape Town or South Africa that talks about gay life. I was just on stage talking about me.”
He quickly added: “My time on stage is like therapy, I get to talk about myself the whole time.”
A comedian’s worst nightmare is pulling the punchline and getting no reaction, but when you tread on sensitive toes such as sexuality, that risk of a joke falling flat increases.
Mathews felt his only aim was to keep people entertained.
“A lot of the characters that I talk about and the situations that I go through, it’s things that they, the audience, have been through themselves or they know somebody who’s been through something like that.”
He is a natural storyteller; leaning on his own experiences and sexuality as a gay man is an extension of his work on stage. “I always knew I was going to be telling stories because I studied journalism at one stage I remember, many years ago, someone asked me what I wanted to become. and I said, an actor – now, today, I’m a comedian.”
He wears his heart on his sleeve and is humble about the fact that he is broadening representation just by doing his job:
“The older I get, the more I I realise how important it is that I do tell the story and make LGBTQIA stories, issues and life to normalise because we all have similarities in our lives.”
Mathews will perform on February 25 at 9.15pm at the comedy festival.