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Showmax mentions in marketing material that its third Original Trippin With Skhumba would be a travel-comedy hybrid, but I’m not totally sure if it penned this before or after production.
*SPOILERS AHEAD FOR TRIPPIN WITH SKHUMBA EP 1*
Like cinnamon atop pancakes, the combination of road trips and comedians heckling one another holds delicious promise. We’ve seen the potential of YouTube’s Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee — a simple take on two famous people in a car on a daily commute. And in South Africa, travel shows like Pasella and Top Billing inject a healthy dose of personality into light-hearted but informative travel segments.
What was really lacking was the banter between friends. Trippin With Skhumba was poised to offer viewers this spicy missing ingredient. And for the most part the show delivers.
Like cinnamon atop pancakes, the combination of road trips and comedians heckling one another holds delicious promise
I viewed the first episode twice before committing to this review, and I’m glad I did. Initially, glaring editing issues marred by enjoyment of Skhumba and first guest Mashabelo Galane’s quips.
Skhumba Hlophe may not have won any awards for his television hosting, but his natural, easy-going style adds to the warmth of the show. The immediacy of improvised comedy is at the heart of this series, and Galane is well adept at filling awkward silences.
His stories about walking across Johannesburg to perform for free beer, and piloting a tractor as a young man was insightful yet painfully funny. Skhumba’s own memories of Galane too are alive behind each contagious cackle.
Skhumba’s own memories of Galane too are alive behind each contagious cackle
This does give it a more informal, vlog-like tone that I initially expected. While the advantages are this is clear, Skhumba’s hosting comes with issues. Questions you wish he’d ask guests fall by the way-side. Questions that would enable the audience to learn more about each member of the show aren’t explored.
A clear context thread is also lacking. The introduction fails to add sufficient information about the filming location within Limpopo, or Galane as a human being. Episode one explores Limpopo and Galane’s home town of Moletjie, but I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t read Showmax’s show notes.
I was left desiring a more intimate study of the town, the province, the South Africa you don’t get to see in brochures, as Showmax’s marketing suggests.
It’s also not obvious if there’s an overall theme at play, nor is it clear what about Galane’s life, or what about Limpopo, we’re actually exploring.
We’re introduced to Galane’s father and mother, for instance, who absolutely deserved more screen time. His gogo too was a character I believed would be more integral to the story. Even Skobo, a random comedian that Galane’s tutoring, would make for an interesting B-character, as Skhumba and Galane follow him, a budding comedian, through the heart of Limpopo and likens it to the latter’s own story.
There are personal narratives lurking in this show that the characters deserve to tell and that the audience deserves to hear
There are personal narratives lurking in this show that the characters deserve to tell and that the audience deserves to hear. But thanks to the comforting tone, it’s easy to look past these content issues.
But there are some production problems that cannot be forgiven though.
Most of the shots are jiggly or framed just too low, taking away from the subjects’ faces. It’s as if the cameramen are using smartphones, or just aren’t cognisant of their shots.
The boom operator also seemingly wishes the microphone to be a side character, often dipping it into the frame. This isn’t edited in post either. I’m not sure any post-production staff even noticed. If they did, they didn’t care.
Speaking of audio, the show does use background music in sections, but music abruptly begins and ends not coinciding with scene changes. While budget audio effects like record scratches and crickets only add tackiness, detracting from the actual comedy.
And it’s the comedy here — the dynamic and stories shared between Skhumba and Galane — that holds the most promise.
I concluded the episode wishing I knew the two comedians a bit more intimately
Nevertheless, I concluded the episode wishing I knew the two comedians a bit more intimately.
Skhumba’s closing monologue hints that he’s known Galane for more than ten years, and that ultimately, they’ve both come a long way from their childhood challenges in Tembisa and the middle of Limpopo respectively. But this show had a chance to be a celebration of those lifestyles, areas of South Africa, and people within it that many will never truly get to know.
I feel I’m more familiar with Galane’s gin franchise than the man himself.
While Tali’s Wedding Diary and The Girl From St. Agnes (which is an must watch) have both been huge hits for the local video streaming company, Showmax’s latest effort left us wanting more.
I know this is a pilot, and we imagine the show can only get better from here, but hey, at least it’s funny.
Trippin With Skhumba‘s first episode hits Showmax on 28 February 2019.
Feature image: Showmax