Comedy Interview: Alan Committie – Apocalaughs Now, Or Dystopian Drollness

October 27, 2021

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By BRUCE DENNILL

Alan Committie‘s latest show, Apocalaughs Now, runs at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre from 27 October to 14 November.

 

Pandemics are hilarious. Discuss.

Mark Twain supposedly coined the laughter equation: “Comedy is tragedy plus time.” I’m not sure this always holds water (especially in a drought), but certainly as we slowly emerge from this monumental period of uncertainty and disarray, it seems we are able to reflect on the last 18 months and see that there were all the elements of farce: incongruity, miscommunication, surprise, mistaken identities, larger than life characters and a truly absurd plot. Apocalaughs Now is an attempt to explore our post-apocalyptic norms and attitudes and to reveal some of the lighter aspects of what it is to survive a global meltdown. Also, it will cover the existential crisis of trying to tap your card on a bank-card machine.

 

There is an obvious escapism/release valve value to laughing in (or as we come out of, hopefully) such times. But have you had to adapt your writing or tone or delivery in the light of it having been such a heavy couple of years (loss of life and so on)?

The response to this show is Cape Town was extraordinary in two ways – firstly, audiences relishing an opportunity to gather in a community of laughter and feeling connected and secondly, their need to find that release outlet of laughter. I, too, had my fair share of dark times during the pandemic. I thought it was important to respect the experiences that people had during this time but also recognise the need to find release and comedy relief in recent  events. A lot of thought, interrogation and re-drafting of material went into the preparation of this show. Initially, in my first weeks of performance, my tone and delivery felt a lot more measured and laced with some pathos. It will be interesting to see how this show meets a Jozi audience now that we are another six months further along in our pandemic timeline. As always, I will continue to adapt and calibrate the performance and the material to make sure that we get maximum laughs – but in a palatable and (reasonably) respectable fashion.

 

In terms of match fitness, you’ve done limited runs (with limited audiences) of this show in Cape Town, but 2020/2021 has likely struggled to match up to your usual schedule. That scenario plus there still being capacity limits in theatres: what have you found you’ve had to change or adapt to in terms of preparation and performance?

I don’t think there’s been any noticeable change in preparation. That template is fairly solid and adaptable for all kinds of situations. I have felt at times like I was comedy unfit in terms of stage time, but more recently work has opened up and I have been fortunate to be fairly busy with gigs, corporates and writing. So, at the moment I am very excited to be sharing my show with the Johannesburg audience. The pleasing thing personally has been the revelling in playing live shows. I will not take audience or live energy for granted. We might only be playing to 50% capacity, but that connection with an audience is everything. In fact, these days, if two or three people are standing still near me for too long, I will do 15 minutes of material…

 

What are one or two issues that keep coming up in shows that you fervently wish weren’t so easy to pillory? Perhaps apart from the form of the Proteas. Nobody wants to be reminded of that.

I’d like to think that we are covering some fairly unique and alternative subjects in Apocalaughs Now. I do start the show with a quick 18-months in review and rear-view but not revue. That covers one or two obvious areas, but even there, I am trying to avoid any angles that have appeared on social media and in Whatsapp groups. If anything, here is a chance to see me play a version of The Crown that might never be aired on any streaming service, plus a one-man version of the dance extravaganza Stomp.

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