Yadhana Jadoo
3 minute read
14 Sep 2013
7:00 am

The Cross Comic

Yadhana Jadoo

Recognise the guy on this? He's familiar right?

Bevan Cullinan poses for a photograph for the Citizen, 9 September 2013. Bevan is an all rounder adding to his repertoire as a comedian, writer, director and actor. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

Throw on some fairy wings, a tutu, pilot’s glasses and imagine him speaking in a high-pitched voice. That’s right, it’s the annoying, yet pricelessly funny Gary the tooth fairy. Bevan to his friends. Bevan Cullinan remembers wanting to be an actor. From just five years old.

Growing up in Cape Town, Cullinan, who relates his story from behind thickly framed black glasses, remembers the precise moment his career choice dawned on him. “I remember it very, very specifically because my mother had taken me to see a pantomime, and I got into the car afterwards and I said to her, ‘I want to do that’.”

So she enrolled him in drama classes as he turned six, something he soon became obsessed with. “Throughout my whole youth, that’s all I was concerned about: acting.”

Cullinan remembers dramatic arts in the eighties as an era very much filled with musicals and pantomimes. If you wanted to be an actor, you needed to have been good at singing and dancing. But that didn’t form part of Cullinan’s capabilities.

“I wasn’t very good at singing and I didn’t really fancy myself as a dancer. But I was always obsessed with comedy. I was always the class clown making people laugh etcetera,” he says in monotone.

“When I was in Standard 7 (Grade 9), I wanted to start doing things in performance that were different to what other people could do.” So he started training himself in front of the mirror to do isolation- based miming, and began “busking” every single weekend at spots around the city, just to make pocket money.

Still pursuing a big break, he then enrolled at Rhodes University to further train as a mime. “But when I arrived there I found out you could only go into mime class in your third year. I was like, screw that. So for my opening first year audition, I painted my face white and did a very advanced clowning mime thing.”

Fortunately enough, Cullinan was recognised by a lecturer who afforded him an opportunity to join the third year students. “I evolved with a kind of very aggressive style of clowning, my clowning partner was Rob van Vuuren, who then went further and developed Twakkie,” he says.

After doing breakfast television with the Toasty Show for two years after university, Cullinan then took up a role as a stand-up comedian. “I was sitting there thinking, I know the academic side of clowning. Not of ‘funny’ but of clowning, and I wanted to do that. So I joined this company, and I have been shooting these commercials ever since.”

He describes the avidly followed Gary the tooth fairy character as: “A Joe Schmo, unshaven, more a borderline slob, but in a cute way.” The idea was to have a fictional character related to night-time and sleeping.

“We want this fairy to get into the house to get the tooth but no one wants to go to sleep. I said to them, I’m nervous about a fairy and comedy. There’s only two ways to ‘make funny’ out of a male fairy. “You either make him incredibly feminine or follow the whole fairy line, or you do the exact polarisation of that.”

The personality was originally written around a famous Hollywood personality like Jack Black. Cullinan who is married, describes all his friends as funny people who workshop stand-up comedy with him. “When funny people are around, you won’t see a lot of laughter you will just hear, ‘yeah that’s funny’.”

Making it big, he advises the younger generation keen on pursuing a career in acting or comedy, isn’t something that is achieved overnight. “The industry is incredibly tough. It’s not important how I got into it, what’s important is how are you going to get into it. You have got to fight and really hard. An overnight success really does take 10 years.”

Cullinan is a director at Fresh Eye Film Productions.

Pictures: Tracey Lee Stark