Joe Barber

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The personality Joe Barber

The name of a character in a series of comedies, set in a Cape Town, and written and performed by Oscar Petersen, David Isaacs and Heinrich Reisenhofer (1999-2010). Based on the shop of a real Cape Town barber, Mr Joseph Swain, who had named his shop “Joe Barber” (an Afrikaans pun - "Joe" being a Cape-Afrikaans way of pronouncing "jou", Afrikaans for "your" - i.e "Your Barber"). Mr Swain's personality, the pun and his shop had become the inspiration for the series of hits plays by the same name. Swain went on to play a key role by supporting performances of the plays and it became tradition that on the last performance of every season he would take his bow at the end of the show.

The Joe Barber series of plays

In 1999 a comedy called Meet Joe Barber, written by Oscar Petersen, Heinrich Reisenhofer and David Isaacs, directed by Reisenhofer and performed by Peterson and Isaacs, opened at Skokiaan Theatre Bar, Cape Town. The play (and later the series of plays) dealt with daily events in a District Six barber shop, inspired by many visits to a barber shop in Parkwood, called "Joe Barber" ("your barber"), where the authors had observed the clients, listening to the stories and jokes. The real "Joe Barber", a Mr Joseph Swain, played a key role in supporting the production over the years, and it is a tradition that on the last performance of each season he takes a bow at the end of the show.

The original play was followed by the sequel Joe Barber and Boeta Gamat Too (2002), Joe Barber 3 the Family Affair (2005), Joe Barber 4 (2007) Joe Barber Up Close (2009), Joe Barber 5 – School Cuts! (2010), Joe Barber and Friends (2013), Joe Barber VI – Life (2014). In the latter years produced by Djamaqua Productions.

The plays have been performed widely in the country at festivals and comedy venues and in 2003 won a Kanna award for comedy at the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK). By 2014 the "Joe Barber" plays had become the most successful and longest-running comedy series in Cape Town. A spin off has been a TV series.


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