Mel Miller

I started my show business career in August 1963. Together with Mel Green we formed a folk group called Mel & Mel (original hey?). We were both at Art School and did gigs on an amateur basis. One night the audience just weren’t listening to the music, so I decided to tell a joke — AND THEY LAUGHED.


A whole new world had opened to me. (R5.00 a night and a meal for a 4 hour gig). We were spotted one night by an agent — Don Hughes who offered us a professional gig at the the Edward Hotel in Durban for three months. From there we went to Cape Town and appeared at the Coral Lounge in the Grand Hotel, Deals Hotel in East London, the Elizabeth Hotel in Port Elizabeth and returned to the Edward until I left for Israel in 1967.


When Adam had a heart attack I was informed that I was to take on all his parts and received great reviews and stayed with Adam Leslie Theatre for three years in shows such as “Group Hairier”, “The Adam Leslie Revue” and “A Tribute To Cole Porter”.


After the run with Adam Leslie, I appeared (as Snoopy) in the South African production of “You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown”, followed by “What The Butler Saw”, “Mama, Is Terry Coming Home For Good” and “A Long Days Journey Into Night”. This final production convinced me that I would never be a serious actor — I was too full of nonsense for that (I mean, how could you be an angry young man when there was so much sex, drugs and Rock ‘n Roll to be had). While all this theatre was going on, Hal & Ian introduced me to radio and I started doing character parts on the serial programs for Springbok Radio — “The World of Hammond Innes”, “Marriage Lines”, “Jet Jungle” and “Squad Cars”. At the same time I started to do stand-up comedy at “Athens By Night” in Hillbrow (before Hillbrow became Lagos ext.2).


I then started looking around at the society I lived in and suddenly a whole new world opened up. I realised that this form of comedy, in a repressive country like ours, was bound to cause trouble, but what the hell — if I was going to go down, I was going down with a bang and not a whisper.


At the time the Top Of The Carlton club only hired overseas acts, and when one of them fell ill I was the first South African to be asked to fill in for a few nights. I was then offered a contract to work there and did four seasons, breaking attendance records every time.


In 1976 TV started and I was asked to appear in a program called “Potroast and Biltong”. The idea of the program was to pit South African comedians against British comedians. The adjudicator was Clark McKay. I also appeared on “The Everywhere Express”, “Us Animals And Things” and “Punchline”.


It had taken me 12 years to become an overnight success!!


In 1995 Sam Hendriks asked me to take part in the Smirnoff Comedy Festival in Cape Town. I have subsequently appeared in nearly all the Smirnoff Comedy festivals, co-wrote, produced and directed a show with the late Shaun Griggs — “Things To Do In Jo’burg When You’ve Forgotten That You’re Dead” (packed for three weeks), sold out at the Grahamstown Festival twice, toured with 3 of my own shows (Captain Chaos, Captain Chaos Flies Again & Divine Madness), worked in Israel with Cyril Green and Eddie Eksteen, and in London as part of a South African Comedy Festival.


My last show in June 2008 — “Mel Miller’s Big Fat Comedy Show” at Montecasino drew 3000 people in 2 days.


This my 44th year in comedy and I’m enjoying it now more than ever.


Here’s to another 44.