By BRUCE DENNILL
The Award-Winning Podcast / Starring Warren Robertson and guests / Rim & Rubber, Greenside, Johannesburg
Professional comics don’t have much scope in terms of the way they can present their wit and delivery. Outside of the big productions that occasionally take place for arena-sized one-man shows they, like solo musicians, are generally expected to make the most of a small stage with a single microphone and a venue full of babbling night-outers who most often aren’t aware that if they’re constantly chatting, they’re going to miss whatever nuance there may be to the performer’s delivery.
In this space, some smart innovation goes a long way, and Warren Robertson, a comedian less likely to bother catering for the lowest common denominator than most, has come up with a simple plan that subtly changes the whole dynamic of the expected situation. He invites two well-known colleagues and then splits the evening into two parts, interviewing one guest – who is then given the microphone for a 15-minute stand-up routine – and then repeating that process after a short break.
The interview is informal, gently probing into the guest’s background and then firing off a set of “First Date” questions that include queries such as “If you could go back in time, which baby would you kill, other than baby Hitler?”. This allows the audience insight into the comics significantly beyond what they might glean through a string of gags, and the connection to the performer they may feel as a result gives a different tone to the stand-up set that follows.
The behaviour of the audience is also different, and may be to the taste of comedy fans who have had their fill of putting up with a roomful of half-sozzled punters whose beer breath is as aggravating as their constant clamour. Rim & Rubber – its name a poor sex joke – is a restaurant, not a club, and the fact that the crowd is aware that the interviews and sets are being recorded for podcasting means that they, generally speaking, act in a way that makes that possible, being attentive and responsive rather than performed at, which is often the case in more traditional set-ups.
Robertson’s guest list is always impressive – as a regular on the circuit himself, he has access to a healthy pool of talent – and on the night under review, he welcomed Alfred Adriaan and serial comedy multi-tasker Kagiso Lediga. Adriaan’s interview was a wonderful advertisement for the efficacy of the format, with his heart-on-his-sleeve responses often as poignant as they were funny. He then proved himself effortlessly able to bolster that appeal with an excellent set. Lediga’s wide experience – as a filmmaker as well as a comedian – informed most of his responses, introducing the audience to some unexpected parts of the Cannes film festival, among much else.
Robertson is producing the Award-Winning Podcast in “seasons” – a number of Wednesday evening performances in a row, then a couple of months off (with those podcasts available for download), then a new series recorded. Keep an eye on his social media accounts for details – the live shows are a great alternative to more mainstream fare.