Comedy Review: Fully Committied, Or Physically Fit For Funnyness

February 16, 2015



The title of Alan Committie’s new one-man show, The Sound Of Laughter, turns out to be a prophecy that’s fulfilled early on in the piece, when the belly laughs arrive unexpectedly close to the beginning of the show, during a stint in which the comedian is riffing on feedback from the audience rather than trying out new scripted material.

Committie’s abilities to both improvise brilliantly whatever is thrown at him and to get an audience laughing about as hard as they’re able without needing an hour to get them to that point are regular highlights of his shows. They’re also the reason his work is always of a type, without a lot of scope for inventiveness. This is not something worth moaning about – there is arguably no other comedic performer in South Africa who is as consistent as Committie when it comes to coaxing laughter out of audiences who’ve come to the theatre from busier, more stressful places.

But putting together and touring a whole new show would be redundant in many ways if the funnyman was not able to build on his established formula; to provide an additional facet that helps focus audience attention and adds a layer of entertainment to the production. In The Sound Of Laughter, Committie does this by adding two things: audio visual elements and a mixture of clowning and physical theatre.

The former is an increasingly popular gimmick in comedy circles and one that adds instant appeal because it instantly expands the onstage offering while requiring no extra effort from either performer or audience. Committie, via video footage, welcomes comedy colleagues in the form of Nik Rabinowitz, Mark Lottering and Rob Van Vuuren to fill in for him as he briefly leaves the stage to take a sip of water or change outfits. It’s a fun diversion, but the tone and the people involved make it feel, to some degree, like a private joke shared by the local comedy community.

The physical comedy component is more impressive – and more important. Doing it well requires commitment to movement, to pausing or lurching forward as part of a punchline and to getting the complex, multi-layered timing involved exactly right. It also involves taking risks, and in this show, as he does in the popular farces in which he often stars, Committie puts life and limb at risk – limbs particularly, in a showcase stunt near the end, for the sake of a laugh. Which he gets – it’s a hoot.

Committie is a brilliant performer, and there are a number of belly laughs – never guaranteed in South African comedy, or in comedy in general for that matter – in The Sound Of Laughter. If he decides someday to take the same sort of risks intellectually that he does physically, he’ll clean up, provided his audience is capable of keeping pace.