Based: Cape Town
British Stand up comedian Mark Sampson landed in Cape Town years ago after coming here on surfing holidays and found that there was no stand-up comedy scene in Cape Town yet. Mark Sampson is one of the most celebrated comedians in South Africa and had rave reviews at the National Arts Festival in Grahams town. His unique comedy concept includes an outsized dice with which the audience directs the comedian and so every show has different turns. The use of a giant game of Snakes and Ladders contributes to more creative fun. Crazy blond dreadlocked Mark Sampson,described as ‘the pitbull of comedy’ by John Vlismas, came from Cornwall to Cape Town many years ago via a stint as a Covent Garden fire-juggling variety showman and a year as an electron microscopist in Saudi Arabia during the First Gulf War… At that point there was no stand-up scene at all in the Mother City.
A passionate believer in the power of comedy to unite people, Sampson was the founder of the Cape Comedy Collective and held free workshops for would-be stand-ups at his Comedy Lab every week from 1999-2002. He was the legendary host of the Cape Comedy Club, packed to capacity every Sunday at the Independent Armchair Theatre in Cape Town for 3 years from 1999. He coined the slogan “Comedy – for the people, by the people!” and the CCC have been delivering just that, at more than 50 venues on their ever changing circuit around the Mother City since then. Sampson also performs across SA and in 2000 played to South Africa’s largest ever comedy audience -10,000 people at the Oppikoppi music festival outside Pretoria.
He MC’d the CCC’s Varsities Comedy Tour on campuses and in cities nationwide from Aug-Oct 2000, and the CCC’s hit showcases at Up The Creek Music Festival in March 2001 and at the Hermanus Whale Festival in Oct 2001. He MC’d the CCC’s festive show at the Spier Amphitheatre in December 2001, as well as his favourite street party, the Obs Festival, where as usual he rocked Lower Main Road alongside Brasse Vannie Kaap and Moodphase 5ive. His first theatre comedy show “Free-Styling” premiered at Artscape as part of the Cape Town Festival in March 2002, with a little help from comedy rapper Sky 189, DJ Hamma and the audience. He was honoured to be the token whitey on the national Sprite Soul Comedy Tour in May 2002. He has appeared several times on the SABC3 shows “Funny You Should Say That”, and “Comedy Showcase”. Sampson also conceived and produced the first CCC radio sketch comedy show ‘The Good News’ which had a writing and performing team of 10 and ran twice a week on P4 Radio from Oct-Dec 2002, and it’s successor ‘Ouma’s Comedy Bites’ which was broadcast three times a week on SaFm in June-July 2003. After touring the Barnyard Theatres nationally from April-June 2003, Sampson went for a complete change of direction, and created a musical comedy show with local guitar legend and surfing buddy Robin Auld for Xmas 2003. ‘Growing Auld with Sampson’, featuring stand-up, songs and comedy parodies of such classics as ‘Rudolph the red-faced rugby coach'(!) played to sell-out houses at the Masque Theatre in Muizenberg. They were “back by popular demand” for another run at the beginning of March, after which they toured for 16 dates up the Garden Route to East London and back via Jeffrey’s Bay.
Undoubtedly, the highlight of Sampson’s career was MC’ing the Cape Comedy Collective’s tour to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for the month of August 2003 – the first time South Africa has been represented at the biggest arts and comedy event in the world. Described variously as “livewire” and “a genial and energetic host”, Sampson made sure that the show at the prestigious Pleasance venue was “Showing South Africa in all its glory… a breakneck blast through some sharp comedy…a fine change from Brits, Yanks and Aussies at the Fringe” garnering 4 star reviews in the process.