1976: The first of many Candid Camera type comedies made in South Africa. FUNNY PEOPLE is packed with scenes which make you double up with laughter! What would you do if you were walking along the street and a cute little lady rushed up to you and gave you a smashing kiss, as if you’d known each other for years? And how does one remain cool as a cucumber when you’re busy with an important audition and the chair you are sitting on gets hotter and hotter until you have to jump up in discomfort to save your behind? Then there is the case of the bank note sticking out from under the wheel of a car. People will always be human and no-one will walk past without trying to pull it out, even if the mudguard comes off or the hooter suddenly starts blowing.
Behind the scenes
"Actually I had my crew just film a couple of comical shots to keep them busy after we had completed Beautiful People,” explained Uys. “When I saw the result, we just left everything and started to work on what would later become Funny People.” Uys first saw hidden camera-comedies showing ordinary citizens’ reactions to extraordinary situations as a schoolboy and loved the idea. “It’s fascinating to see how people reveal their personalities in moments of stress,” said Uys. He experimented with the concept while making the 1969 short film "Marching To Pretoria". Dr (Boet) Troskie flew to New York to meet with Allan Funt, legendary creator of Candid Camera, to negotiate permission to use the premise. The Uys-team compiled a list of almost a hundred sequences from which they chose about 50 to stage.
The scenarios had to be planned with precision – catching humorous reactions meant precise timing; camouflaging the cameras and microphones were also tricky. Filming across the country took 18 months. They snared hundreds of South Africans of all ages and races. Uys then sat with five hours of usable material which had to be edited into a 90 minute picture. "Funny People" (1976) was to better the record-breaking "Beautiful People’s" historic records. Public anticipation for South Africa’s first hidden camera-film was ablaze. Nationwide theatres were sold out for days – even before its release. In some cities all sessions were sold out weeks in advance. In its first week alone, grossing about R250 000! No other film had ever achieved that. The spur-of-the-moment comedy provoked such a national circus of popularity that Boet decided to take it to the Cannes Film Festival (the global cinema industry’s most important trade fair). He successfully sold the film for distribution in most countries worldwide. They bought the movie without having seen it – the name Jamie Uys clinched the deal. After engulfing South Africa, once more depleting the State’s film subsidy scheme, Uys’ People annexed box offices across the world raking in millions for years. While selling Funny People at Cannes, Boet Troskie was besieged by interest in Uys. Some of the world’s largest film-financiers demanded the right to bankroll his next three productions!