Pieces of my shattered confidence

It was a night of struggle that will never be forgotten.

Ladies and gentlemen, I can now loudly declare that I had my first true taste of dying here at Rhodes.

I died so horribly at Champs last Thursday.

Before we get into speculation about supernatural blog posting, let me just hint to the few of you who might not know: By death I’m referring to bombing out. That excruciating encounter in comedy where the jokes are just NOT landing.

That was me. Sort of.

I was part of a line-up that included the comically-sparkling Virgil Prins, an energised Illy Kulati as well as a night started off by some improvised madness from Nat Caf.

I arrived along with the troupe (Nat Caf) at around 9, just as the gig was set to start. Champs is a small sports bar tucked away on Scott’s Avenue in Grahamstown – a quiet street that rings with the constant ambience of the bar’s regular patrons.

This was the very first comedy evening at this venue, so it was always going to be a litmus test of an event. One that I didn’t really ace.

Champs Comedy Night promo poster

So Nat Caf started off fairly well, thanks to a couple of regular supporters in the audience. Then, as the games passed on, so did the attention of the crowd. I wasn’t performing with the group, but could hear a growing number of people who were just starting to do their own thing.

The guys were real troopers, though. They carried on as strong as they could even though some parts of the audience were pretty distracting.

I sat in the little area outside the main bar and glanced through the window as the place started looking less and less like a comedy-ready venue.


Illy stepped up to the mic to introduce me. Cheers and applause greeted my entrance.

It’s a pity that my composure deserted me the second I stepped up on to that stage. I just stood there expecting a massive struggle – and I’ll tell you why.

The back of the room was clustered with a bunch of loud guys having a blast at the pool table, a group of people stood at the bar to my immediate left and were speaking incredibly loudly and, to top it off, ALL of the TV sets kept flashing a constant flurry of Olympic activity.

It then became a delicate mental balancing act. My mind is taking in the hectiness of the room, my ego is trying to maintain a sense of outer calm, my act is trying to draw as much attention to my set as possible. I knew at that very moment that I was set for a rough night.

I carried on, though, and stumbled through a couple of set-ups which meant that my first punchlines fell flat. About three minutes into the set, the absolute worst-case scenario unfolded:

Usain Bolt pops up on screen for the start of his 200m final.


Showstopper: Usain Bolt
Pic: Getty images

London 2012 Olympics – Men’s 200m athletics final

As much as I’m a fan, that was the LAST thing I wanted to happen when the crowd’s attention was already water through my fingertips. The guys at the back of the room gave an ear-splitting roar of support (for the athletes) and I quickly changed tack. I faked excitement at the race and just went along with watching the 30 second sprint.

In my mind though, it was a desperate scramble to map out the safest route towards some sort of a solid end to my stage time.

As soon as Bolt crossed the finish line and everyone cheered approvingly, I took a massive gamble by throwing in a very old joke (from 2009) about athletics in South Africa.

It worked for that moment.

To salvage the faltering set, I reverted to a tried-and-tested joke from last year’s pile of Rhodes material. It landed better than the other stuff and I at least left with some remnants of my severely-bruised confidence.

Tough times, I tell ya.

But it hasn’t been ALL bad.

In fact that very morning started off to such a flyer. A call from one of my friends had me stand in as MC for a Womens’ Day event at Atherstone House. I tried out some material which had been on the burner for a while and it landed really well. The stunning ladies from the res made it a really memorable event to take part in.

Fast-forward to the weekend and I played host to the very first version of RU Talented on Saturday. A contest hosted by Courtenay-Latimer Hall which turned out to be quite fun, despite some technical glitches in the beginning.

Sunday evening saw me make a return to Allan Webb Hall for their annual charity dinner. A nice, calm evening where I once again linked the programme together as host.

Hectic times, but definitely filled with learning curves. More to come and I’ll keep you in the loop.

Stay tuned…



5 thoughts on “Pieces of my shattered confidence

  1. awww!! I guess there’s a first time for everything hey.. you sound like you handled it well 🙂 luckily, you’re a comedian so you should be able to laugh it off. lol >.<

  2. Don’t worry, Tyson. Champs tends to be a nightmarish venue for any type of form of performer who goes there. I’ve played one or two gigs there, always to a could-have-been-better crowd.

    The problem, first of all, is the layout: the stage is in the corner of the room, giving you a 90-degree angle to project from. Very restricted. Also, there’s that damn door to the outside on the right, and the bathroom door on your left, with people going in and out all the time. Imagine watching a theatre performance with the exit right in front of the stage? Yeah, does not compute.
    Also, there ARE seats, sure, for people to sit on, but the majority of these are behind the pool tables, which breaks up the audience (and I agree with you: these tables are uber loud and distracting). The smaller bar stools are too small and cramped, and the patrons along the bar are interested only in their purchases.

    Mind you, I’ve never had to compete with Bolt. Although I did once play a set while the UEFA cup final was on in the background. Try that for crashing.

    1. Hectic! I hear you on the distractions note. We all learned lessons based on that first comedy show they were having there. One thing for sure: A better way to direct attention towards the actual performance would lift the mood significantly.

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