By MANDY COLLINS
Alan Committie – Classy Clown / Directed by Christopher Weare / Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre, Fourways, Johannesburg
I was raised on The Goon Show, and it shaped my comedic tastes forever. I spent a lot of my childhood huddled around the radio with my father, cackling at the sheer insanity of Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe, and it left me with a lifelong love of pure, unadulterated silliness, and a penchant for bad puns.
This probably goes some way towards explaining why I’m such a fan of Alan Committie’s comedy. So dedicated am I that I went out on a school night (quelle horreur) with a severe case of year-end exhaustion, feeling hangry and headachey, through an epic Joburg storm. It was totally worth it.
Classy Clown – which is doing a tiny run of just 12 performances – is the perfect antidote to both the tiredness that this time of year brings to many of us, as well as the weariness that comes with just being South African. You know what I’m talking about. And there’s something so therapeutic about sitting in a darkened theatre and laughing till your face hurts. It might not solve any problems, but it provides a small oasis, a moment of respite.
The show has a loose educational thread running through it, with some scripted set-pieces that are incisive and insightful. Committie is truly great at taking ordinary, everyday events that every one of us has gone through, and helping us to see the funny – often ridiculous – side of those situations. His greatest strength, however, is the way he interacts with audience members, where his responses are lightning fast and hilarious. Never has the term, ‘rapier wit’ applied so well to someone. But while he relentlessly pokes fun at audience members – once he knows your name, you’re sunk – he manages to do so without ever being cruel or malicious.
It is pure delight when he asks an innocent question of an audience member, and you can tell that he knows he’s just hit comedy gold. In tonight’s audience was a couple on a first date, and they didn’t stand a chance of obscurity once he had prised that little nugget out of them. He truly made it a first date to remember.
I see a lot of the Goons in Committie’s comedic style – the madcap pace of the show, for one, and the Harry Secombesque giggles when he can’t resist laughing at his own jokes. But he’s also a very physical comedian, supplementing his extraordinary verbal acuity with elements of mime to create almost farcical caricatures that are instantly recognisable. He uses movement to mock audience members, institutions, politicians, and even himself, and does so to great effect.
His famous alter-ego, Johan van der Walt, did not make an appearance in this show, but I am pleased to report that Committie’s stellar “Latin” declensions did. The good people of Blairgowrie were also given a break this time around, but other areas of Johannesburg had their fair share of ribbing – and justifiably so.
So if you need a good laugh – and I think we probably all do – make sure you catch Classy Clown. Committie hasn’t performed in Johannesburg for more than a year, and this really is a whistle-stop run, so don’t delay booking, or you’ll miss it. And one final note for when you do go – don’t be late!