What went down at Comedy Central

What a whirlwind of a week.

What began with the most surprising of SMSes, culminated in a showing at the POPArt Theatre in the heart of Joburg as Comedy Central Africa‘s competition beckoned.

Most of the week was punctuated by short bursts of intense fear as I explained to people exactly what I meant with last week’s blog about the comedy that lay ahead at The Box. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

And I couldn’t ease the nerves that came with it.

Step up to the mic
Step up to the mic: This past weekend hurled me back on the Joburg comedy circuit for the first time since November 2009

Fast-forward to Sunday night. I arrived at Main Street Life (venue where the theatre is located) accompanied by my brother and sister in law. It was also incredible to see a few folks from Church turn up as well as a really awesome friend who left Rhodes two years ago, but still made the incredible effort to come through and support.

We arrived quite early before the mooted 19:30 start, which gave us time to scout the place and get settled. Kind of.

Around 10 minutes later, Farhan Esat arrived. He was the fellow competing comic on the night. His easy-going nature meant we immediately struck up a light chat about the event and how things were going.

I spent most of the time immersed in thought and anticipating what lay ahead as people started trickling in. Before doors opened, I met Jason Goliath (one half of  organisers and comedy duo GOLIATH&GOLIATH) and basked in his presence and was immediately hit by how surreal it was to actually stand alongside one of South African comedy’s pacesetters.

Jason Goliath and Donovan Goliath are two of the country's comedy stars and were on-hand this weekend. Pic: Hysterics.co.za
Jason Goliath and Donovan Goliath are two of the country’s comedy stars and were on-hand this weekend. Pic: Hysterics.co.za

I was given a a quick look at the intimate space and told I would come on after the interval as the second act.

Showtime.

Chris Forrest, an established figure in SA comedy and someone whose body of work I admire, was the host for the night. He launched straight into a very laid-back and strong routine which was littered with improvisation with the audience.

Forrest then called up Eureka Nkese, whose interesting observations on family and cultural life were quite engaging and entertaining. He had hilarious views about his  suburban upbringing and also went on an enthralling tangent about his grandfather’s disciplinary methods.

Forrest came back to the stage and, by this  time, it seemed he had identified the two poor souls who were likely to be picked on by the comics on the bill.

Chris Forrest, one of SA's masters of deadpan comedy, played host. Pic: comedians-south-africa.co.za
Chris Forrest, one of SA’s masters of deadpan comedy, played host. Pic: comedians-south-africa.co.za

Next up was Farhan. I watched with rapt attention as he came on to the stage in complete comfort and paced his set with ease as he launched from one segment to the next.

Very polished set, he had. And the audience was engaged throughout. He set a benchmark and it became immediately clear that this was going to be tough.

The following comic was Donovan Goliath and, as headliners do, he completely raised the bar and enchanted the room with his unbelievable energy levels. The room was constantly exploding with laughter as Donovan threw so many curve balls and manoeuvred his way through his set at electric pace.

After the interval, the effervescent Christ Forrest was back to get things underway.

First up in the second half was Alfred Adriaan. Rarely have I seen this level of energy in a comedy performance. Alfred is a very frank, shoot-from-the-hip kinda comic and bombards the audience with really funny observations on cultural habits. He also had an extended bit about how self-conscious people get in public toilets (including in the workplace) and had the crowd in complete stitches.

Chris Forrest didn’t take too long with his next appearance. Within two minutes, he had introduced me and as I stood in the small wing area on the side of the audience, my heart raced as the stakes became clear and the magnitude of the occasion flashed across me once more.

I got on stage and untangled the microphone chord slightly as the glare of the lights blanketed the small stage. Diving straight into the opening line, relief washed across me as it landed and laughter filled the room.

“OK. Let’s go,” I said to myself.

And go, I did. For so long, my comedy has been fuelled and performed from a place of intense fear and, thankfully, I managed to find a state of calm which definitely goes a long way.

It was a decent showing and was the most surreal thing seeing some of the comedy giants in this place having a good time while I carried on. By that point, veteran Kedibone Mulaudzi had arrived for a cameo due after my performance and musical comedy superstar and SA’s Got Talent host Tats Nkonzo (who was set to headline the second half) was also around.

Before I knew it, the set was over and I handed the mic back to Chris as applause reverberated around the room. It was over.

Mulaudzi came up and was quite honest about his cameo. “I’m here to try out a new gag,” he said. And it landed. He had a real ease with his material which included a detailed bit about dining at Nelson Mandela Square.

Nkonzo came up and justified his superstardom with his stunningly clever use of both pop and traditional SA music lyrics to get his points across. It was my first time seeing him live and it was pleasantly surprising to witness his flair at the craft even when he wasn’t playing his trademark guitar.

Superstar: Multi-talented comedian Tats Nkonzo. Pic: livemag.co.za
Superstar: Multi-talented comedian Tats Nkonzo was the night’s headline act. Pic: livemag.co.za

The night ended with Jason Goliath leading the audience in voting for the comic who would go through to the finals of Comedy Central Africa‘s competition.

As the cheers rang out in a symbolic thumbs-up to my progression, I was immediately overcome by disbelief and extreme relief.

A genuine “Wow” moment.

We stayed behind afterwards for a few pictures and a short video interview before calling it a night.

The finals are set for 2 June and the competition will see two more comics selected in the coming weeks to join in on all of that. I’m so incredibly thankful for the outpouring of love and support which really helped me so much throughout the week and carried me into the performance.

The occasion was one I relished from the get-go and is something I am unlikely to forget. The finals are a massive prospect and it’s all such a huge deal. So surreal.

Stay tuned…

-Tyson

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