This is how I got into comedy.
I was in my second year working at IBM when I met Etienne Shardlow. He was working for a different part of the company and a colleague had told me something which immediately sparked intense interest – Etienne was a comedian by night.
I had to know more. Upon meeting him, I instinctively pelted him with questions. How did he get into it? What exactly does he get up to?
He facilitated comedy workshops at the Joburg Theatre, so it didn’t take a lot to have me hooked on the prospect of joining one of those.
The hardest lesson I learned from the very first of those workshops was simple: It’s one thing laughing with your mates, but a completly different ball game trying to make a bunch of strangers crack a smile.
I came away from that first experience knowing I had a lot of work to do.
A few weeks later, in June 2009, I had developed my act a tad. Etienne recommended I try my hand at one of Johannesburg’s popular comedy clubs – Cool Runnings. I called them and they slotted me into their famed “open spots”.
Open Spot: A 5 minute window, slap-bang on that Cool Runnings stage in a line-up of more seasoned comics. 5 minutes to, as they say in comedy, kill or die.
It was the day after my birthday that I had my first stint at Cool Runnings. 7 June 2009. [I chucked in that date so you can figure out my birthday and send me wishes / presents as you please]
Anyway, it was a memorable performance. Loyiso Gola happened to be MC that night and it went well. Good laughs. Not unbelievably outstanding, but good enough to warrant a warm applause and interesting chats with a number of rather pretty women.
Not a bad return for a first-timer.
The ego at that point just about matched my already-overlarge head. Confidence is a funny thing. I remember walking into the office the next morning with a floating mood I hadn’t felt in ages.
“This is it.” I repeated those words to myself countless times. I had to take another stab at it.
I was back on that same stage a month later. Let’s just say I walked off with a disproportionate head-to-ego ratio. My head was the only large thing left as my ego receded to the depths of my psyche.
That night yielded scattered laughter and the awkwardness was torture. I tried new jokes that night and most of them didn’t fly.
It was bad enough to keep me off stage for 3 months. I didn’t even attend so many workshops anymore.
Something changed significantly when Etienne lent me a book: “The Comedy Bible” by Judy Carter. What a gem. It felt like a missing piece in my personal puzzle. It gave tips and hints and provided a structure for my jokes.
Etienne had organised a small-scale comedy festival at the Joburg Theatre. Among the list of performers was Mpho Popps, a runner up in South Africa’s second season of “So You Think You’re Funny” and Chris Mapane, an enthralling comic with an incredible knack for working almost any crowd.
That night was one of my most memorable. Armed with a formulaic approach to the comedy, the response was by far the best I’d experienced up until that point. I also managed to network with Mpho and Chris, whose advice I still value.
I decided to use some money I had saved up to leave the workplace and try my hand at a degree from Rhodes University.
I’ll get into that in the next installment. Comedy still remains a large part of me.
Keep coming back…