James Clarke’s thrice weekly humour column – Stoep Talk* – in The Star in Johannesburg is syndicated to newspapers within the Independent Newspaper Group. He also writes humour for various magazines and has had several books of humour published in South Africa and the UK.
His love of humour is greatly influenced by his upbringing in England where he was addicted to Punch and Private Eye as well as the work of Perelman, Thurber, Leacock, Wodehouse and Jerome K Jerome whose house he used to walk past on his way to school.
Fourteen years ago Stoep Talk launched Densa, the club for those too stupid for Mensa (the international society for those whose IQs are in the top 2 percent). Densa’s members are people who are not terribly good at anything.
Stoep Talk also launched the PA (Pedestrian Association) – in opposition to the AA (Automobile Association) which, he claims, doesn’t give a hoot for pedestrians. The PA, like the AA, has a breakdown service to help pedestrians who suffer breakdowns while negotiating city traffic. It hands out to victims PA monogrammed tissues and pats them in a sympathetic manner.
The PA also helps those who have been run over or mugged – sometimes both. Usually in that order.
Accident victims can, upon flashing their membership cards at casualty departments, receive a welcoming sherry and get 20 percent off on bone splints.
One of the heroes of his column is the affable Togetherness Amadeus Tshabalala, the demon taxi driver of Soweto. The rear window of his taxi bears the sticker: Defeat constipation – travel by taxi.
Clarke’s secretary is Threnody Higginbottom (called “Miss Smith” around the office) who files everything under M for Miscellaneous.
Another of Stoep Talk’s regular characters is Belinda Tamsen a schoolgirl with a compulsive desire to write very frank compositions. Her lack of spelling skills in no way inhibits her vivid descriptions of family life.
* Stoep is an Afrikaans word meaning patio or verandah.