Up close and personal with comedian John Vlismas
COMEDIAN John Vlismas is testimony that one should never judge a book by it's cover. He is well read, unique and has good values.
Many refer to him as the Godfather of SA comedy, but he reckons he's just an ordinary guy going about his business.
He's not just a ball of fun but has a mind so knowledgeable it would embarrass most of us. The hour spent with him feels like 10 minutes. I'm entranced.
He usually sports crazy hair, black clothes, countless tattoos and hair-raising accessories. But today he's toned down 'cos he has a meeting at a high school his 11-year-old daughter wants to attend.
"I look like a f***g idiot," he smirks pointing out his intact jeans, sports jacket and hair neatly combed to the back. But he has his trademark skull earrings on.
"I love it when people look at me and judge me. They think they know me based on my appearance - but I'll f***k them up every time. To many, skulls represent evil. But it reminds me that we are all going to die. In South America it represents a long and prosperous life."
He cusses at every turn and isn't apologetic about it. It's hilarious!
The 39 year old says he's not sure how many lives we have, but in this one he wants to experiment, constantly reinvent himself and not be predictable.
"My tattoos are a conscious choice. At least they're external. Not like many I know who hide. Like Lance Armstrong, the hero who cried about his cancer, meanwhile he's a lying pr**k who got to the top by dishonest means."
Vlismas says his mom is a good Presbyterian, but he doesn't have any cultural or religious beliefs.
"I think it's all s**t actually. I don't have a belief system. Like sending your son for initiation and having his d**k cut with a blunt instrument and he dies of infection. How does that make sense?
"I'm not against anyone's beliefs, as long as it doesn't impact on my rights. I don't have any real roots, but I believe in treating my fellow people with goodness and dignity 'cos that's what its all about.
"You don't need a boss filling up church coffers telling you how to live.
"I owe it to my child not to think in a stereotypical and prejudiced way. Just because my grandfather was an Afrikaner with certain beliefs it doesn't mean I should now filter down those beliefs."
He shakes his head in disgust. "I never want my child to have a Day of the Vow... what bulls**t. I don't care about the Voortekker Monument. Rather tell me about the 76 Soweto uprisings where people fought for something real.
"But if my daughter wants to read the Bible I'll buy her one, or the Torah or Qu'raan."
Yet his closest buddies are a rabbi, a professor and a priest.
Vlismas also touches on his past drug abuse: "... not something I speak about 'cos it's a personal issue, but I've been clean for seven years now.
"I was drinking too much and allowing recreation and drugs to control me.
"I admitted myself into rehab, had to learn that man rules himself and internalise my locus of control. It's achievable.
"You lose some friends, others are happy for you and then there was my best friend who was encouraged to also be rehabilitated," he says looking rather serious now.
While in rehab he developed a love for scuba diving and discovered his talent for painting.
"I was trained by artist Robert Hodgins. I miss him dearly. He died shortly after I met him. I hope to dedicate my next work on the homework he gave me," says Vlismas, who is genuinely emotional at this stage.
He reckons he's privileged as he's met great leaders, including the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela.
"They have an angelic-ness about them that can melt the hardest of hearts. I can't describe the feeling I had when I was in their presence. I can tell you I definitely don't get that feeling in Steve Hofmeyer's presence," he says with a straight face.
Vlismas is pretty angelic himself. He might cuss, look weird and probe many - but he speaks truth and has a heart of gold.
"If we all lived as if we had Aids we'd cure it in six months and treat each other so much better."
Join John Vlismas (and friends) every Wednesday between 14 November and 19 December at Carnival City at 8pm.