It’s been a long time since I’ve laughed as heartily as I did when Alan Committie reclaimed the stage at Montecasino.
In the doomsday period since his last one-man comedy show the world has given Committie plenty of fresh material. It’s also created a pent-up demand for belly laughs and camaraderie, and all those other wonderful vibes you only get from a live performance. Committie is bursting with confidence and exuberance, and as delighted to be back as we are to have him.
The stage set for his new show Apocalaughs Now! is the grey detritus of a decaying world, with abandoned boxes, tyres, wire mesh and other indistinguishable rubbish. Mad Max wasn’t a movie, it was a documentary, he quips.
Soon he’s recapping some of the news and events we endured during lockdown, with the cigarette and booze bans, Donald Trump and Jerusalema. He jokes about the TV shows that kept people entertained during long days at home, and dives into the way we began to question who we are, what we do and why we do it. The things that we’ve discovered during Covid, or the things that we’ve lost are examined and laughed about, making us look back and be grateful that we made it through. He makes a few serious points along the way too, like the fact that you have to look after yourself before you can look after anybody else
One memorable sketch is based on Stomp, the energetic musical, when he records some beats on the fly, grabs a handy broom and gives us some white man dancing moves, intertwining physical comedy with verbal gymnastics.
The show directed by Christopher Weare swings along at a merry pace. Committie is as smart and sassy as ever, and with a touch more mischief about him. His jokes and anecdotes are almost always clean, always intelligent, and invariably funny. Although if a joke fails to raise the guffaws he expects he pokes fun at that too, telling us that some of his comedy is just for the brighter side of the audience. “Some of the jokes aren’t for you, they’re for me, I have to entertain myself as well,” he adds.
For people already acquainted with his shows there’s some comfort and reassurance in hearing a familiar line like that, which he slots into every performance. Perhaps it subliminally reminds us that although so much has changed, some things can be recovered. Like the regular slot where he gives us one of his madcap grammatical deconstructions on a flipchart. This time we get Armageddon, which he ingeniously ties back to the various offerings that our political parties threaten to deliver.
It’s audience interactive in you’re in the first couple of rows, with gentle teasing that’s never offensive No matter what reply is contributed by the person he picks on, Committie has a quick-witted retort that makes them part of the joke, not the butt of it. It’s a warm technique that draws the audience closer to him instead of making them nervous of being selected.
Another of his great skills is weaving some of the earlier threads back into the conversation later, giving the show a flowing continuity and making sure anything that was funny once gets a second and third laugh from a different angle.
Covid and the lockdowns were appalling, but Committie gives us a much-appreciated opportunity to look back and laugh.
Alan Committie’s Apocalaughs Now! runs at Montecasino Theatre until November 14. Tickets for R220 at the box office or Computicket.