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 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.
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.
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.