Loyiso Gola's latest hour is about questioning and overturning prescribed behaviour. Which seems ripe with possibility, both for someone born into a South African society still riven by Apartheid structures of privilege, and for a considerable star in his native land, back playing modestly sized rooms in another country.
Refreshingly related without excessive pride or false modesty, Gola discusses his fame in the same matter-of-fact tone he applies to all of his stand-up, his thoughts carrying the assured conviction of the topical television host he once was. This can make him seem slightly cold and brutal during a routine about getting his wisdom teeth extracted, as he jokes about his fellow patients with more serious conditions. But he's consistent and keeps to the point. Impressed by The Godfather author Mario Puzo's more-or-less total fabrication of the trappings of organised crime, subsequently adopted by a mafia that enjoyed seeing itself romanticised, he sets little store by stereotypes. He is, he informs us, unlearning many things he was taught growing up.
These range from deftly presented, throwaway observations to Unlearning's core tale, about the bachelor party of his white, former school friend. Thick as thieves tearaways in their youth, he finds himself once again coerced into self-destructive acts, his celebrity an added complication. Something of a misanthrope, Gola doesn't build a rapport with a crowd so much as demand one. But there's a heartening coda to his tale in which he discovers a role model close to home.