Stoep Talk

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.


36 thoughts on “Stoep Talk

  1. Hi James,
    This is brilliant, I feel like I discovered a pot of gold today ! For the first time in ages I actually read the small print at the bottom of the Stoep Talk column and went straight to the web.
    From time to time I have scanned Stoep Talk and emailed it to friends all around the globe, and then for a while I would have to answer my cell with laughter on the other side. No more of this scanning now, yes sirree !
    Like many other readers I guess, for me Stoep Talk is often the highlight in the paper (not exaggerating), and I usually turn straight to the editorial page. This week I nearly knocked over my coffee laughing at the new meaning of flatulence…
    I have been enjoying your humour for many years now, and have 3 or 4 of your books (one autographed) as well. Actually, being a hiker and lover of the great outdoors the first book of yours I bought was Mountain Odyssey, way back in ’85 I think. Before the stoep ? Recently I referred to it again to find out more about the Wolkberg, where we just did a hike. Great stuff. I then went and got John Buchan’s “Greenmantle” which I am reading at the moment, and have ordered “Prester John”. So there goes. Must still get Blazing saddles.
    Keep up the good work,


    • Hi Gert-Jan, I thoroughly enjoyed our lunch yesty. I have just rcvd this message (see below) – not sure when it was sent but it seems some time ago. In it you say you must get Blazing Saddles. You said yesty you had already received one – or am (as uaual) a bit confused. . . When you mentioned I had sent you a copy I had no recollection of sending one to you. james

      James Clarke, Ink Box 876 Lone Hill 2062 South Africa Fax ++27 11 465 4564 BLOG:


    • Thanks Gert-Jan – I am not sure if I answered this message and I am not clever enough to find out if I did – nor why your message has resurfaced now having gestated in my mysterious pc for nine months.
      Anyway it has prompted me to feed by blogsite after two months of neglect.
      Thanks for the prompt!


    • Hi there Gert-Jan – how nice to hear from you and thanks for the compliments. I am sorry it has taken a month to reply. My problem is I keep forgetting to feed the blog and forget it;’s there. Yes, I must reread Buchan’s stuff. – my co-auithor’s father – he was British Ambassador to Washington for a time, was Lord Tweedsmuir’s closest friend – Buchan’ became the first Earl of Tweeedsmuir.
      Blazing Saddles was the book I enjoyed writing most – alas, it is now unavailable. This week I send off my 31st book. Penguin this time.
      I hope you are keeping well – maybe we should celebrate Spring witjh another of those great beers out Muldersdrift way.


  2. This is such a treat to find you on the tinternets. I’ve been away from South African for the past nine years and I’ve missed your regular doses of wit.

    Today I randomly did a google search and voila, there you are! I’m excited to find you on here and look forward to being treated to your brand of humour.



    • I have, as you will see above only now remembered to read my response file. Many thanks for your note. I am noiw determined to keep my blogsite topped up.


  3. Hi James,
    ten years ago i studied in Jo´burg and i was an early Monday eager collector of the Star just to rip the page with your chronicles…came back to my homeland and, because of personal turmoil and web problems, i fell out of touch with it….today i remembered to type “James Clarke south african newspaper” at my yahoo and lo and behold!! Stoep Talk!!! I just had to take this chance to thank you for cheering me up on those lonely grey mornings at Spartan High School, and for making me ROFL at my Norkem Park flat!!…and i still keep that “SOTP” piece with me :-))

    Keep the verve alive!!


    PS- special thanks to Ms. Threnodee :-)))


    • Hi Markus, many thanks for your note.
      Threnody was very flattered that you mentioned her. She has filed it under M for Misc.
      I’d forgotten the SOTP column.. Here in Gauteng we have forests of new signs guiding us through the chaos caused by the constructivism of the Gautrain. So maybe I should update the column.
      Thanks again


    • Thanks Najma – glad you liked it. Just been away for a week so the neurons totally inactive. I find I have to strike the side of my head to dislodge a few before I can wrrte a column.


  4. I really enjoy the column that you write. It is always so refreshingly funny and at the same time true.

    I’m Replying on the article ‘You can’t teach an old racist dog new tricks’

    I was too young to really remember the last breath of the apartheid era. But what I saw on the television and what my parents read in the news papers made me always so sad why people can’t treat each other with respect. My parents thought me, that people are just people And that the colour of there skin should never make me treat them differently. Treat people with respect and you will earn their respect. I proud my self in being different and having my own opinion and view point, I believed that if enough people felt and thought like I did that together we could change the mind set of South Africa. We have a rich history, not the most colourful. But I believe that one should learn from the past and never forget the straggle people went thru. It is something to be proud of and yes, tell your children and your children’s, children. Write books about it and write songs. But there is a difference between remembering the straggle, appreciating the courage of those individuals how made a difference. And Preaching about a cause and a straggle that has already bean over come. I feel hurt and confused that there are those how are not willing to make a difference. This past few months has being a circus and a disregard for people’s feelings and an insult to the constitution, which brave people fought so hard for. The apartheid is a chapter of South African history that should never be forgotten and is not one that all South Africans are proud of. The constitution has given us a chance to write a new chapter. One that speaks of over coming our past and moving towards a better future were we are equal. But the future seems dim the past is still haunting us and the straggle is still being preached even thou it is over come. If one can’t learn from the past, lets at least learn from nature. If the ANC insist on referring to itself as a grate big elephant, then shouldn’t the wise and respected grate elephant bulls discipline the arrogant Jung Bulls that seems to be on the warpath? The songs of the past belong in the past, why not write new songs of a unified South Africa and leave the bleak past behind. There is a colourfull future ahead.

    A Young White South African Farm Girl


    • You are absolutely right Tanja. Despite the current crisis and despite comments from some politicians I think the vast majority of South Africans want to come to terms with the past and conjure up an atainable vision of the future. Prejudices are not shed overnight but we have come a long way since the Apartheid years. James

      James Clarke, Ink Box 876 Lone Hill 2062 South Africa Fax ++27 11 465 4564 BLOG:


  5. Dear Mr. Clarke,
    I am compiling a book of South African humour. I came across your Togetherness essays on the internet and would like to include them in the book. Please let me know if you would allow me to do so and whether or not there is a cost involved.
    Chris Bruce,
    Bangkok, Thailand.


    • Chris you are very welcome. BUT please note that the internet version has been tinkered with by persons unknown and I am taking legal advice on it for it has a racist undertone. Some right wing fellow working for a Randburg security company tried to be clever. What angered me was he says it’s from my blog. Please go to my blog for the original version. As the issue is so sensitive can I ask you to send me the words that will appear? Let me know if I can help further. James

      James Clarke, Ink Box 876 Lone Hill 2062 South Africa Fax ++27 11 465 4564 BLOG:


  6. Dear Stoeptalker
    What a great pleasure to be able to read you again!

    I am also rereading Herman Charles Bosman’s short stories. A kindred spirit!




    • Hi Veda – thanks for message. In Canada I see. Whereabouts? You’re missing out on a hot spring day 30 degs C. and bougainvillea blossoming everywhere. Just back from Switzerland and Tour de Farce IX exploring Darkest Europe on a bicycle with five intrepid mates. James

      . , James Clarke, Ink Box 876 Lone Hill 2062 South Africa Fax ++27 11 465 4564 BLOG:


  7. Hi there

    i must thank you for making my day with your article titled our mayor does not deserve these insults! Absolutely brilliant…. i am looking to find the original letter sent to the mayor…


    • Dear Charlene, the original letter? Dammit, I’ve lost it. I think I must have chucked it away with the final demands. In retrospect I was very kind to him. Pudding Head is sort of gentle – I was tempted to equate him to something more anatomic, more fundamental – but I was interrupted by my wife tolling the dinner bell. James

      Box 876 Lone Hill. S Africa 2062 Fax 011 465 4564 Blog:


  8. Hi could you please send me a copy of your recent article about Chuck Norris? We recently did an ad for one of our clients ” Truck Norris”.


  9. Dear mr clarke
    its really great reading your articles again after my departure from gauteng( i am in eastern cape now in the deep rural the star bookshop.)
    Technology is really great as well.
    Anyway you are inspirational.


  10. dear james,
    just read an article about street names being sexist! a group of italian women are fuming over this, after going through some 15ooo street names, showing 73 % to be male…………..they want these to be renamed!
    phew!…………that’s a lot of MAN-hours!


    • This might be what is needed. Somebody NOT steeped in SA Police tadition. To date it has nurtured almost irreversible corruption, thuggery and appalling ineptitude. I doubt, in the civilised world there is a more ineffcient and sloppy police force. I pity the new commssioner. James

      Box 876 Lone Hill. S Africa 2062 Fax: 27 11 465 4564 Blogsite: Website: For a free sample of my latest e-book click below: This book is a true and hilarious adventure involving six retired journalists living in Africa who embark on a series of exploratory expeditions into “Darkest Europe” and bring back to Africa tales of the strange natives there. Their first expedition involved a 1000 kilometre cycle ride down the…


  11. Dear James! I love your columns and sometimes cry with laughter on reading them! Would love to read your books, but haven’t got EFT (too tricky for me) to use for Amazon. How else can I get them? Was told I had a sky-high IQ at school but never figured out how to use it, so DENSA sounds like my kind of club! Naomi Wakefield -Stapersma


    • Dear Naomi – I am so pleased you like my stupid columns!. Regarding books – unfortunately Blazing Saddles is out of print and rarely comes up in second hand book shops. The Yellow Six is more common and if I had a spare copy I would send it you. I have a spare copy of “Laugh, the Beloved Country” – it’s a hard cover copy and wld cost about R50 to post – but you could have then book with pleasure. Pity about Kindle – it is very EASY to operate – even I can use one! And you then have access to 1400 000 books – cheaper than books shops James.

      To preview – free – the first 15 percent of any of my latest e-books go to or


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