Mark Banks: "I'm basically a con man!"
25 years is a long time to be standing on a stage and telling jokes but if you get it right, then, like Mark Banks, you could win a Lifetime Achiever Award. Mark will be honoured for his lifework at the Comic Choice Awards in August. But before he accepts his award, he has to go through a grilling from a panel of comedians, including John Vlismas, Loyiso Gola, Robert Whitehead, Casper de Vries and Dave Levinsohn.
We spoke to Mark about his life lessons and experiences, including the moment he realised he was funny, his career as a diamond smuggler and working as a air hostess on a Malaysian airline.
Mark Banks! Congrats on your Lifetime Achiever Award. A lifetime is a long time to achieve, what's the most important thing you've learnt over the years?
The one thing I learnt is that you should never do it if you not in the mood. Care about what you do and don't let your teeth show too much!
Ha! What's the one thing you wish you had done in that lifetime?
I don't know. There's not much I would have done that I haven't been able to do already. I guess I wish I'd gone overseas earlier, but I know now that at the time it wasn't right. I always wanted to leave and I could have gone for California and Eastern Europe but I didn't go, they were all too dodge. I wish I had gone overseas but I'm glad I didn't.
Okay, when did you realise that you were actually funny?
When I was 9! I painted a picture of a tree orange or oranges on the tree. I've always used comedy as a defence mechanism. I use it to make people like me. I've learnt that if you can make people laugh or smile then they are generally nice to you and you can get away with it. It's like I'm a con man of sorts. Well, I don't have the looks or the body so I figured comedy would have to be my route.
You definitely make people laugh but surely you've had moments where the crowd was too tough?
The hardest show I ever did was a corporate gig for a trucking company in Witbank. The audience, and all of us actually, were sinking in mud while a gale force wind blew. It was our Glastonbury!
25 years though! There has to be a joke or two that you've re-used in that period!
Yeah! I think so, probably. The baddies now have just changed colour . Nothing really changes. The jokes are the same, the butt of the joke just changes names. Sometimes I think we are living in Animal Farm and we on page 29.
That's very political. Have you thought of going into politics.
Never ever! I already do something similar. Politics is like comedy, all you gotta do is watch Parliament and Malema to realise that it's all comedy! There's a Hollywood script written every day!
So what other career would you consider?
I would be a salesman at a flea market selling dynamic products like a pen that could cut glass, a fanless egg cup or a demystifying cloth for your phone that also brushes your teeth. I guess it's all the same: teachers, politicians, pastors, comedians; it's all standing in front of people telling people things that aren't necessarily true.
You say that but would you ever be an air host/hostess? "Exit doors are on your left and your right..."
Gosh no! It's too close to public face- to-face. I would be the first air hostess to disappear mid-flight. I'd probably work for Malaysian airlines.
We digress! Back to business. Before you get your award you have to go through quite a grilling. What is it that you hope the panel won't question you on?
I hope they won't ask about my years as a diamond dealer, smuggling diamonds into Istanbul in Karoo-made Vetkoek and the massive amounts of money I've stolen from agents telling them I don't have any gigs.
And any celebrity affairs?
No! Never! They don't come near me. I don't have enough glamour. I watch Top Billing and think "Oh, if only I was like Jeannie D or Janez" I go to the gym but it's just not working!