Can I talk to you?

I’ve finally started talking to audiences. And one of those milestone moments came this past week.

I know that sounds like a weird thing to say on a blog dedicated mostly to stand-up comedy, but hey. I’m talking specifically about a state of mind I’ve long tried to find in performance: finding the same ease with switching tangents that I have in conversations with friends.

I’ve always wanted to bring a far more relaxed, conversational element to the stand-up. The same potential for thoughts to drift off into offbeat, yet really funny tangents. And it happened to fantastic effect at a recent show.

But first, let me backtrack a bit.

About two years ago, I changed my comedy style from performative to conversational. It took me that long to realise that some of the strongest ways to resonate with people is by talking to them, rather than at them.

It might sound silly but for the longest while I didn’t really understand what it meant to connect with people on a level further than ‘I have really awesome jokes and will hurl as many of them at you‘. That’s pretty much how I used to approach this comedy thing at the beginning.

However, at a point early in 2013, I switched up my approach to focus more on what I was really trying to say using the jokes, rather than focusing on the finest presentation of carefully crafted laugh-inducing gems. Yes, comedy’s end game is to get people laughing but it became about more than that.

The stand-up comedy took on a conversational tone at 2013's Comedy Central show. Pic: Cindy Ellis/Comedy Central Africa
The stand-up comedy took on a conversational tone at 2013’s Comedy Central show. Pic: Cindy Ellis/Comedy Central Africa

Back to this past week.

I played host at a variety show hosted by Rhodes University’s Hindu Students’ Society. Staged at the majestic Guy Butler Theatre, the large-scale production had just under 30 acts in a jam-packed programme.

What a night.

Granted, there was the odd injection of material that I consider a work in progress, but a lot of the audience interaction was completely off-the-cuff and worked out pretty well. I’ve had to consciously tell myself to slow down and listen to audiences every time I do this comedy and MCing thing.

The HSS audience was phenomenal and their contributions (even mild heckles) resulted in some of the biggest roaring laughs of the night. I thoroughly enjoyed the gig and took away great lessons in the potential for the audience to really drive the energy.

Off course, everything must be done in moderation and there are limitations to leaving things quite open. But that was definitely one of the few instances I felt totally comfortable having an organic conversation with a comedy audience as I would any group of close friends or family.

The learning never stops. I love this craft.

Stay tuned…

– Tyson




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