Comedian Marc Lottering’s one-off My Fellow South Africans show has been a monster, runaway hit. It was H-U-G-E!!!
Ticket sales, according to ticketing company Quicket, came in at about 18,000. That is phenomenal. That’s not me saying it; that comes from Marc’s peers in the entertainment industry.
The first thing most of them did was to crunch the numbers – 18,000 tickets at R70 a pop. Yep, that’s in excess of R1,000,000 for the night’s work. That’s great money in any entertainer’s language, more so as a comedian.
And think about . . . he was performing in a studio that had no audience bar technicians. It is part of the “new normal” where artists have no choice but to go online and stream shows “alive”, as Marc’s Aunty Merle character puts it.
Marc was so overwhelmed at the response that he opened the June 13 show absolutely ecstatic at having heard the news that they had sold 15,000.
“We’re rich. I wish I had charged more,” he told viewers (probably in jest).
With more than 60,000 followers on social media and a history of sell-out runs at his live shows in the past, it was kinda expected that he would draw a few hundred viewers.
“I was hoping to sell one thousand tickets,’’ Marc said. “People currently have many shows to choose from.
“As we got closer to show-day, Aki of Penny Lane Studios kept sending through the numbers. We were all in continual shock as it kept climbing. And fans were buying from all over the world.
“When we started to creep past 7000, my stomach nerves started losing the plot. I was like ‘oh flip Marc, you cannot screw this up’. It got so bad that I eventually asked Anwar [Mc Kay, his partner and manager] that the figures be kept from me. I was not dealing with it. I just desperately wanted to not be distracted, and to prepare as I would for a normal preview night at the theatre. Except this was not going to be a preview. This was going to be the preview, the opening night, and the final performance rolled into one. It was a crazy feeling.”
A week after the one-night stand, Marc was still in awe of the achievement and how it stacked up as a source of income against a long run at a theatre.
“Seventeen thousand tickets sold! [It ended up being 18,000 when online access was stopped.] I’m really not sure if that will ever happen again. I made good money. Everyone was doing the math on their couches and sending me screen grabs with calculator totals.
“The show was shot at a filming studio. So there were expenses attached, as with any other big theatre show. Studio and crew costs, opening act costs, PR costs, SARS, . . .
“Anwar and I also support selected charity groups. But having taken all of that into account, the income for one gig was still helluva good. There’s obviously no way you could make that money in one night at a theatre. Which is why I usually run at a theatre for a month or so. I am mindful of the fact that that live stream show was somewhat of a phenomenon though.”
Although Marc’s last live gig, Aunty Merle – It’s A Girl, ran until the end of February, he, like so many other artists, found himself without work when the national lockdown came into effect in March. Initially he wasn’t keen on “pivoting” to the new online medium.
“I was reluctant. Everyone else was doing it but I was resisting the idea, as I simply could not get my head around the thought of not having a live audience. But then so many of my followers were pushing for me to ‘please step forward during lockdown’.
“They wanted to hear what I had to say right now. So I guess I figured that there would be some support. I estimated that we would sell around a thousand tickets. Anwar quietly booked the studio and the put out the flyer. Quietly.”
Given the success of this event, is he considering doing another?
“There’s been some talk of me doing another live stream show. It’s probably going to happen around the end of July. We’ll see. It all depends on what’s going on inside my head, creatively. Also, the world is currently a surreal space. People are fighting for their lives, and people dying. It sometimes feels as though comedy is not the easiest thing to do right now. And yet, many have said that it’s a very necessary thing to do right now. We’ll see.”
While many local acts that have decided to stream live via Facebook from their lounges or garages at home and ask for donations, Marc opted to use the Penny Lane Studios and Quicket ticketing company.
“I wanted to do things right. I wanted the fans to have as few technical hitches as possible. Or even better, no technical hitches at all. Hence me deciding to shoot at a studio where the team knows their stuff.
“It’s also very good for my headspace to leave home to do a show. I’m old school like that. It just feels right. I have to point out that the show went out live, so there was little room for screwing up. Many online shows are pre-recorded. Ours was not. So I needed a solid team.”
Marc’s advice for any other artist who has hopes of emulating his achievement is to treat the show like any other show: “Prepare in the same way. Not only rehearsal-wise, but also in terms of PR. Have a solid PR campaign. That helped me a great deal. Fans loved the little promo videos of Aunty Merle and Colleen the Cashier. We were also fortunate to secure radio and TV interviews. Those were amazing.”
Of the show itself, it was vintage Marc, or should I say Aunty Merle, Colleen the Cashier and Shmiley, the taxi Sliding Door Executive, with lots of new material, some specifically corona virus related.
“Anwar was only willing to direct if I came with only new material,” Marc said. “So of course I hated him. I usually do new material with new shows but then I usually have the luxury of fine-tuning the material night after night. This was going to be different – brand new material into a camera with no idea as to whether the material is landing or not. It sounded like career suicide. Well apparently it was not.”
The use of a sign language interpreter was commendable. We must always be mindful of people who are hearing-impaired.
For those of you who were not among the lucky 18,000 who bought tickets, (thousands more probably saw it because it’s only fair to assume that many households had multiple viewers glued to the screen) hope and pray that the show could be viewed in the future.
“Some people have asked if they could catch the show online forever, I’m looking into that,” Marc said.
If and when you do get to see the show in the future, be alert to the sombre moment at the end when Marc slips into social commentator mode and reminds people of the other “pandemic” in the community . . . TIK TOK! Very potent.
Ticket seller Quicket revealed some interesting facts about the show. The day before the show, June 12, about 9000 tickets were sold. By the time the curtain went up it had hit 16,500. An additional 2000-plus tickets were sold after the show as viewing was extended for a week.
Indicative of Marc’s far-reaching popularity – and his fans’ yearning for something from home – about 1500 people based overseas bought tickets.
There are lots of local acts streaming online now in an effort to generate an income in lockdown. Emo and Loukmaan Adams had a quite entertaining show with their father on Father’s Day to honour him. The Makhanda/Grahamstown festival has kicked off in an online format and it will feature some brilliant artists. And next month Madeegha Anders has on an online gig as has radio personality Clarence Ford celebrating 30 years behind the microphone.
Support them, local is lekker!