Probably South Africa’s most-travelled comedian, Barry Hilton takes his gags to Australia and New Zealand during August 2012. Affectionately known as “The Cousin”, he spoke via Skype from his home in Port Elizabeth to Rob Flude of The South African in Australia, who was based in London…you just couldn’t make that up!
Barry, who was born in 1956 in Harare, is an electrician by trade. With his ability to tell hilarious stories, complemented with expressive eyebrow movements and a malleable face, Barry has been recognisable to South Africans for three decades, and his unique humour will be lapped up by homesick Saffers and locals alike.
He has performed in Paris, Amsterdam, London, Doha, Dubai, Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, Wellington and a bunch of cities in between. Recently, he has branched out into the motivational speaker circuit. He has also been invited back to Hong Kong to headline the 6th anniversary celebrations of the TakeOut Comedy Club — Asia’s first full-time comedy club.
His latest tour kicks off at The Palms, Crown Casino in Melbourne this Friday, in the same venue that Wayne Brady (Whose Line Is It Anyway?) performed at in July. This is the first time that a South African entertainer has been invited to appear at this venue, a tremendous accolade for one of our favourite sons.
Thanks to his wife and manager Sandy, I was privileged enough to speak to “The Cousin” before he jetted out to join us in Australia. Unfortunately, my plumber had other ideas, and decided to drop by during the time I specifically told him not to! Not only did I have to fob poor Barry off briefly – this is akin to media career suicide – I then had to endure 15 minutes of unsavoury viewing of plumber’s crack, while I assisted the tradie to install the new washing machine. Eventually, said plumber departed, and Barry and I spoke on Skype…on his iPad, through the wi-fi on his phone…
Olympics – your take on our goal of 12 medals?
Unless we steal them we haven’t got much chance. A few of the okes have said that if they win a gold, they’re going to go back to Boksburg and chrome it.
Tell us a joke about an Olympic sport (no Caster Semenya jokes please)
Some of the guys from the East Rand are quite upset that they didn’t qualify. There’s one oke who reckons he’s the best at catching the javelin. There’s another oke who says he’s the world champion at headering the shot-put.
You’ve got a few gigs aboard cruise liners – isn’t that for the blue-haired brigade?
Boet you don’t understand. I sent my stuff to a guy in Sydney and he got hold of Sandy and said he liked what I did, and put me on an American cruise liner that called into Cape Town and headed off to Lomé in Togo. Although Sandy tells me, “Baz, I’ve got you a gig from Cape Town to Rome!” But that’s the price you pay. Anyway, there was 680 folk on this ship, 80% of whom were Americans and I got good reviews from the two 45 minute shows I did.
Also, my show has always been clean, maybe a little naughty sometimes, but always clean and I was being complimented about not having any profanities in it. A lot of people also ask, ‘How do they understand you?’ But it’s easy, I’m intelligent enough to change my diction, it’s that simple. And if I use an Afrikaans word, I will explain it.
How many times have you been to Australia & New Zealand?
This is my second official tour. I came last year and I came with a pair of open eyes and realised what a beautiful place it is. But for these okes to open their country up to us, it’s a very special thing, we should be grateful. And we both loved Melbourne. I have a maritime visa, which means I can work all the cruise ships around Australia, but if I got a work permit I would do it at a drop of a hat, I really like the Australian people. When I came here last year, I had a couple of bogan hecklers in the crowd in Melbourne, but after 5 minutes, they were my biggest friends because I handled them!
What do you think of Aussie Rules?
The benchmark for becoming Melbournian is to get kicked out of Crown, something I’ve achieved. Are you going to push the envelope with your jokes?
Of course! But only after I’ve got my cheque.
Do you get nervous before a performance?
I want to vomit. My palms sweat and I can hardly breathe.
You are on a plane that’s going to crash and you have to pitch your case to get the only parachute. And go…
If it’s an SAA plane, we’re cool, but if it’s Zimbabwe Airlines, the plane would have crashed before we’ve even taken off. But I need the parachute, cos I’m heavier than everyone else.
For more information about “The Cousin” himself, check out his website.
Boet – brother, or affectionate term for a male friend
Oke – bloke
Kak – shit
This article originally appeared on The South African in 2012.