Arts Festival

The serious job of making you laugh

HOW to grab the moment that will make them laugh. And laugh. Morning radio host and stand-up comic, Darren Maule, performs at this year’s Hilton Arts Festival. Photograph by Anna Maule.

WITH HIS THICK head of hair that is more TV host than radio host, he’s the voice that the people of KwaZulu-Natal wake up to, see their blood pressures rise to the tempo of the news with, and enjoy chewing the cud alongside, once the children have been dropped off at school. He’s also one of the key reasons why you need to be at the Hilton Arts Festival, this year. Meet stand-up comic Darren Maule, award-winning host of the breakfast show on East Coast Radio. He brings Mauling Glory to Hilton, a show not to be missed.  

The youngest of five boys, one with a penchant for flamboyant socks, not to mention the music of Queen, Maule laughs self-deprecatingly at the kind of career momentum that brought him to where he is, professionally: “It’s a bit of a trope, really. Skinny guy at school who wasn’t very strong, not very fast or very academic. Making a group of people laugh once can be quite addictive and I grew up in a family where they loved laughter. There was always Monty Python, and there was a lot of joking, which was certainly an influence. From very early on, I got addicted to approval.”

“I wouldn’t call it a gift,” he adds, with reference to that inimitable ability of his with timing, with deadpan facial expression and with the skill of being able to make decisions about the next joke in his head while he’s telling one that has the crowd weeing in their pants. “If you call it a gift, you’d not be deferential, which I prefer to be. But I would say, in my experience, it does help to have funny bones. And I know – I’ve seen actors who have really, really struggled with being funny on stage. They really work hard at it and are exhausted when the process returns to normal, and then there are other people who effortlessly make people laugh. I don’t know if it’s a gift that you have, as much as it is a talent – and a muscle you can flex.” 

With credentials on live stage, in TV, on radio and behind that stand-up comedy mic, Maule says that he’s often asked which medium is his favourite. “Stage time is king in this industry. I dedicate so much of my time to radio and get so little time on stage. It really is hard to isolate one. My frequent answer – pre-pandemic – was always ‘the one I’m currently not doing’.

“But when we were able to move down from lockdown restrictions, I realised what I missed and what I really wanted to do. Covid made me decide I really want to do a lot more comedy. And since the pandemic, I’ve been doing that. Certainly with club gigs: I’m the resident MC of La Parada Umhlanga for comedy evenings once a month. I’ve done quite a few ‘Darren Maule and Friends’ shows at the Globe Theatre, so I’m getting my stage time! I’m also realising that this is a really really important aspect of who I am and what I do, so I can’t just leave it there as other this thing that I do from time to time: I need to keep this tool sharp.

“Radio found me on a stand-up comedy stage. When I was in Joburg, I was one of the original guys who started with comedy clubs of the ilk of Hysterix and the Funny Farm at the then Randburg Waterfront – now called Brightwater Commons – alongside funny guys of the ilk of Mel Miller, Alyn Adams and Chris Forrest. I was also one of the frequently used MCs for Joe Parker when he was at Hurricanes at Fourways Mall and then Parker’s comedy at Montecasino.” It was from the comedy and MC stage that he was headhunted by ECR. Born and raised in Johannesburg, Maule studied Musical Theatre at the then Pretoria Technikon, during a period when it was the finest school for the discipline, in the country.

“But there’s something humbling about the fact that more than 1 million people choose to listen to me every day, over not only other radio stations out there but over all the other options from blue tooth in the car to Spotify to social media,” he adds.    

His show, Mauling Glory is focused on the hilarity, the stress and the highs and lows of running a top commercial morning show on radio for over a decade. It’s going to be a show filled with innuendo and topped lavishly with spice. It will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Maule describes the relationship between radio and comedy in his career as circular but he’s quick to acknowledge the privileged place he knows he holds. He also doesn’t side-step the unequivocal and off-the-scales highs that he gets from keeping you laughing, which is more potent than what could be achieved with chemicals. He knows. He’s been there and back again.

Mauling Glory with Darren Maule is at the Theatre, Hilton Arts Festival, on Saturday 12 August at 19:30. Tickets are available through WebTickets.

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