If you want a great example of how a venue and its audience can influence a show, Funnier Than Them is it. By LESLEY STONES.
Laughter feeds off laughter, and while a comic will give us the same patter and jokes and perhaps stick to the same delivery style, there’s a vast difference when you’re playing to a lively crowd.
The audience for Funnier Than Them at Sandton’s very elegant theatre wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t what you’d get at a comedy club on a Saturday night. We were a little on the scant side, terribly white and surprisingly elderly, as if tickets had been touted at an old people’s home around the corner.
So kudos to the comics Chris Forrest, Warren Robertson and Deep Fried Man for giving it their all and putting a lot of smiles on our wrinkly faces.
Forrest and Robertson chose to ignore the lack of guffaws and carried on as normal. Forrest even seemed a fraction more animated than his usual deadpan style, as if by moving around a little more he could wind us up and generate some energy. He does classic observational comedy and he’s consistently funny with his sharp one-liners. I felt I should clap twice as hard as normal to make up for the empty seats.
Warren Robertson was a complete contrast, with a far faster delivery that left the guy behind me constantly repeating the punchlines to his wife who’d missed them. He was constantly pacing, and twisting his observations further into darker, more off the wall territory. His jokes were intelligent, sometimes weird, and occasionally left you thinking for a second about whether it was right to laugh.
In between the comics there was some on-the-cheap animation featuring a grumpy old racist dubbed Gerry D Atric. It didn’t seem to be to this audience’s taste, perhaps because the old white geezer telling the jokes is really the butt of the jokes, and he did rather resemble some of the spectators. I’m sure it must go down a storm with a tequila fuelled younger crowd.
While Forest and Robertson carried on regardless, Deep Fried Man took the different approach on calling us out on our lack of responsiveness. It was trickier for him because he sings clever and witty songs rather than lobs out jokes. And the stage must be a lonely place when the feedback is minimal. But he’s shaken off the apologetic style he used to have, and that instantly sent out a better vibe.
Some of his songs were familiar, like ‘Lithuania’ and the ‘White and Entitled’ song about shopping in Woolies. I hadn’t heard ‘Crime After Crime’ before, a lovely South African twist to the Cyndi Lauper song.
All three of these comedians deliver sharp and intelligent social commentary, and it was a treat to enjoy their contrasting styles in this very complementary line up.
I think everyone around me enjoyed it too. It just wasn’t a crowd used to expressing itself enthusiastically. Maybe you should buy yourself some tickets and liven things up a little. DM
Photo: Chris Forrest, Deep Fried Man and Warren Robertson
Funnier Than Them runs at Sandton’s Auto & General Theatre on the Square until 26 October.