Tag Archive: funny


i posted this a few years ago when i had a Weekly Mash blog going on, but thought it was worthy of a place on Irresistibly Fish as it is one picture that never fails to make me smile a lot and usually laugh out loud [which is unusual for me – normally an inside laugher]

i hope it might have that effect on some of you.

you know as a child, many well-meaning adults told you that you could be whatever you wanted to be…

well this guy took them seriously…

cloud

[For some more fun and silly stuff, take a look at these offerings]

[If you have never experienced my alter ego, Brad Fish, and his video series ‘Dangerous Things You Can Least Expect’ click here]

[continued from part iii]

where was i? oh yes, trying to finish this thing – maybe i should have gone all Hollywood book-movie and split part III into two separate parts for greater box office…

AMERICALAND… AND THE PRESENT DAY

i refer to it as Americaland, because i’ve never been a big fan… and specifically of the materialistic aspects of the country because clearly there is a lot of amazing stuff in this land and a lot of incredible people [as there is a lot of crap like the portion sizes of drink and popcorn containers, the mayonnaise [don’t get me started – you do not know what mayonnaise is, Americaland!] and people who keep allowing Miley Cyrus to perform – and some less than exciting people – I’m looking at you Westboro Baptist “church”].

but it was never a place i particularly wanted to go to [until some of my family moved here] and after Cape Town [i grew up in Joburg and didn’t know better so it was really just the idea of leaving everything i knew as a 12 year old], Stellenbosch and Holland you would think i would learn to not tempt God with ‘places i don’t want to go’ [right now i’m letting him know in no uncertain terms that i never want to to go to the Bahamas and stay in one of those huts out in the ocean with a wooden walkway to them – i won’t do it!] but each time the journey has been an incredible one, largely due to the people and sometimes the opportunities in those places.

one of the tough things of leaving Cape Town was leaving my crew of 11 years at TheatreSports where i had been paid [well petrol money one way at least] to be funny in front of crowds [of 12 or more people] week in and week out. so i have definitely missed that.

and so in the absence of any official outlets for being funny, i had to come up with my own…

ENTER BRAD FISH 

Brad Fish is my alter ego and probably the number one answer to the question, ‘What were you thinking?’ and the answer is honestly that i don’t know. i can’t remember where i came up with the idea [altho i do imagine i was influenced by my friend and ex-youth member Theran Knighton-Fitt who has a funny alter ego called Tharin and so in all likelihood this is simply another of my plaguirising issues, but i feel that since we were in different countries i could possibly get away with it]

[which reminds me of a funny sidebar story – i studied primary school teaching and my first prac teaching experience was at Rondebosch boys primary school teaching grade 4 boys and it wasn’t a particular fun experience for me – i was given to a disillusioned teacher who was giving up teaching at the end of the year and so didn’t care very much about anything. years later it turned out that a bunch of the boys i taught ended up in the Claremont Baptist youth group i was then leading and we had a lot more fun together. a funny-ish story happened while i was teaching there but it was only years later when Theran started coming to the youth group that i made the connection that it had happened with him. one day i was filling in for the other grade 4 class teaching Afrikaans [not my strongest] and this young kid came up to me and asked me how to spell some word and so without skipping a beat i started spelling “W…O…O…R…” and he [who turned out to be Theran] started writing in his book… when he was finished i asked him what it spelled and he read back “woordeboek” which is Afrikaans for ‘dictionary’ and i responded with ‘yes, look it up!’ – he was not impressed but that might have been the comedy highlight of my teaching career]

Anyways so i came up with a concept that i thought might be funny, wrote my first script and recorded the first ever ‘Dangerous Things You Can Least Expect’ [an excellent title, still!] video titled ‘Paper’ and with really bad lip synch which i figured out later was related to my laptop needing natural light to video well:

25 videos later i had a series  that never quite threatened to go viral and the one that was viewed the most was the episode i did on Birthdays which i helped viralise by sticking it on everyone’s wall on Facebook when it was their birthday [and with 4000 plus Facebook friends that was a lot of sharing, which as you know is caring] – they definitely have moments but i don’t think i ever quite nailed it largely because of me needing to sneak one in every now and then when i got a bit of a script together and also doing it in five takes or less, but preferably one and due to filming them on my laptop in one continuous take with no editing or anything like that.

but they did build up a small and faithful following and it was for this handful of people, who have been so so generous in making me feel like i created a worthwhile form of entertainment, that i kept at it although largely due to busyness and lack of fresh ideas have slowed quite dramatically in recent times. one great thing that came out of doing the videos was connecting with my mom’s brother’s son [my cousin] David Fee and his family of 10,000 [or something like that – lot of Fees in the United Kingdom] who, possibly due to some chemical imbalance in the drinking water in Scotland, loved the videos and became some of my biggest fans – and so i have discovered [and come to love] a whole new branch of my extended family and doing the videos was enough for simply that.

the one that came the closest to being brilliant in my opinion though – or let’s say the one with the best idea – was this one that Brad Fish did warning us about the dangers of too much violins in society [with the solution obviously being that we needed less violins, and a lot more sax]:

i am a little proud [in the good way] of that one…

while Brad Fish tried to branch out into the ‘How to…’ market with his ‘I can learn you a thing’ series [https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLoH9GUY5WnThkZ2aZW_qZjmWO5zLZwlbz] and ‘Doing it with Brad’ [https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLoH9GUY5WnThlYvjoUGBsrXNVhPjAOUkv] these never quite got going [time, inspiration] and only led to 1 and 3 episodes respectively…

one episode that received surprising interest was this one he did on punctuation:

…which somehow made it into at least 4 schools in the Pretoria area in South Africa and in one school the whole English department showed it to their classes [i don’t know how they weren’t all fired] which led Brad to make a special video just for that school as a form of thanks… so yes teachers, looking for some educationamalism, look no further – Brad Fish can have help you out wiv it no problems.

and so who knows what will happen with Brad Fish in 2014 – maybe it’s time to retire him or maybe, if time and inspiration permits, there will be occasion to improve the quality and presentation of the videos and to draw in somewhat bigger audiences that way, but in the meantime i am happy to keep my 10 to 20 fans happy with irregular episodes as the ideas hit…

i should add this, that while there was a pocketful of loyal fans and i really enjoyed making Brad Fish videos for them, there was a huge part of them that was purely for me, in an attempt to keep my sanity. i started making DTYCLE while at the Simple Way where tbV and i were residents for close to two years and while there was a lot of good that came out of that, there was a lot of difficult and frustrating and even angry-making at times and i think a huge part of making the Brad Fish videos at times was just giving in to the silly and just having a few minutes to move to a place away from some of the mess i found myself in at times… Brad Fish – cheaper than a therapist!

BRETT ANDY

There is and will ever only be one Jack Handey [and judging by his first novel which i excitedly bought this year titled ‘The Stench of Honolulu: A tropical Adventure’ maybe even he has gone – what a piece ‘o crap!] but he brought us such classics as:

‘Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them, and you have their shoes.’

‘When I was a kid my favorite relative was Uncle Caveman. After school we’d all go play in his cave, and every once in a while he would eat one of us. It wasn’t until later that I found out that Uncle Caveman was a bear.’

‘To me, clowns aren’t funny. In fact, they’re kinda scary. I’ve wondered where this started and I think it goes back to the time I went to the circus and a clown killed my dad.’

‘Somebody told me how frightening it was how much topsoil we are losing each year, but I told that story around the campfire and nobody got scared.’

Love me some Jack Handey. And so much so that i figured [as some other oke did before me] that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and so i started trying to get my brain into Jack Handeyesque mode and came up with my other alter ego, a funnyish guy called Brett Andy – as with the real Jack, not all of the ones i came up with were great, but a couple of them i thought came close to hitting the spot:

‘Do you think if minutes were edible, they’d taste good enough that we’d want to go back for seconds?’ [Brett Andy]

‘I would imagine a horse drawn carriage would be a really ugly thing. For starters, it must be almost impossible to grip a pencil with hooves. Plus there is all that fine detail around the edges to consider.’ [Brett Andy]

“I wish I had the balls to do that, I thought, as I enviously watched the juggler.” [Brett Andy]

and then in full on homage mode:

‘Before you criticise someone, walk a mile in their shoes. Then, walk half a mile in their shirt, followed by another full mile, this time in their pants. Walk two more miles in their underwear and then criticise them all you want.

Also, they’re naked.’

[Brett Andy]

Every now and then i go back to the blog [where you can find the rest of the quotes here] and delete some of the saddest ones in an attempt to gather a collection that is purely fun or funny, but there is still a long way to go. Although i do think i hit funny enough times in there to warrant reading through the whole list at least once. Maybe in 2014 i’ll find moments to tune my brain back into Brett Andy mode again cos that was fun.

THE BIGGEST LAUGH I SEEK

so let’s try wind this baby down… i guess when it comes down to it, there are always two laughs i am hoping to get:

the first one is my own – i have to think something is funny to do it [altho there is a corollary to that and i doubt i can explain this well, but there is a certain type of occasion or crowd or joke where i know it will not come across as funny to many people or even anyone and yet i like it or think it is clever or funny and will do it anyway – i have told Val a couple of times ‘this is not going to work’ or ‘they’re going to hate this’ but there is something about delivering a moment that is satisfying for me to have delivered even if others don’t join in and sometimes specifically because others don’t join in – i wish i could think of an example but sometimes the fun for me is the knowledge of how it would be received and doing it anyway – this falls in line with the ‘higher grade’ joke i spoke about before where sometimes i will choose the five people laugh [at clever humour] over the crowd laugh [at something easy or silly] and that for me remains satisfying – my laugh is more important sometimes than the crowds.

this falls closely in line with my preaching and one habit i have which i’m not sure anyone really gets is pretending to be nervous or overnervous before i do something that might make other people nervous [ie speaking to a crowd of 1000 people] as a means of dealing with my nervousness… again a bit of a hard one to explain but the act of feigning nervousness, not only allows me to use the word ‘feigning’ which let’s be honest, but also takes away any possible nervousness for me that might be there. what it doesn’t do though is help those around me who think i am incredibly nervous when actually i’m not. so maybe it is the act of transferring any nerves i might have on to those around me that helps me avoid all nervousness together or something like that. having said that, one of the points is that i won’t attempt something [in the speaker/joke department] unless i believe it is going to work – if i believe it’s going to fail that is when i will not attempt it. if i think it might fail but might work then i’m fine with taking that kind of risk but there needs to be at least some small part of me that thinks or believes that this thing is going to work – that’s where i get my confidence from [and is one of the areas in which i am different from my friend Alan Committie i think, because i don’t think that thought or analysis slows him down, but possibly because he believes he is going to be funny every time whereas i know that has not always been the case with me? i don’t know] – but that is a peek into one of the internal workings of my brain.

and then the second and possibly toughest laugh to get is that of the beautiful Val [you might know her as tbV although you shouldn’t cos only i am allowed to call her that] who claims that she doesn’t want me to lower my standards or something lame like that… when i get Val to laugh then i know it is good… although to be honest i think she has only watched two Brad Fish videos and she laughed out loud at both of them… but yes, it is something i appreciate as she doesn’t just laugh at everything i do or pretend to, so i know that when i get one out of her that i have nailed it!

so it is great to be with someone who at times keeps me humble and at other times brings me joy when i do get the laugh – she also has the ability to make me laugh which is great as i generally am not someone who actually laughs out loud [which might be why i hate the concept of the ‘LOL’ and that is probably the first time i have ever written it… no, it’s just cos it’s dumb, if you’re writing Laugh Out Loud – see, i can’t do it twice – then you’re probably not!] but there are times when she has the ability to do that and i think that is one of the things that makes a strong marriage – being able to laugh well together and there are many times when we definitely have that.

AND FINALLY, IN CLOSING

so there you have it, i did not even get to the point of why i started writing this, which was kinda bemoaning the fact that i’m not so sure if i legitimately am funny these days and particularly with my struggle to write funny because i really want to be able to write funny blog posts – not all the time, but on occasion – and i am not sure why i can’t because i do think there is enough evidence in other places to suggest that i definitely am some type of funny. so maybe that will be something i will work on in 2014 and if you have a topic you would like to see me try and write funny on then please leave it in the comments section cos i find i work well from a starting place…

some brief and final bullet points in closing:

# i have kind of held to the notion that ‘women aren’t funny’ for a long time now which would have probably have gotten me beaten up on the TheatreSports stage where, looking back, there is no doubt that over the years there has been an abundance of proof that women definitely can be and are funny. i have been privileged to work alongside some very funny women. and i don’t think i ever truly meant that no women ever are funny and it might be the whole vibe of men being offered the best parts and so we just haven’t had the opportunity to witness it as much but in years gone by i could name ten to twenty funny men without even thinking and when it came to women it was Whoopi Goldberg [we’re talking ten, twenty years ago] and that kinda sucked. but today there are so many more funny women and hopefully now that they are writing and directing more we will also get to see more of them on the screen. but Tina Fey and Amy Poehler really kicked that one out of the park as far as i am concerned – i think Kristen Wiig is amazing and i also think that Sandra Bullock is great – Melissa McCarthy has potential but i feel she has been sadly stereotyped as foul-mouthed obnoxious toilet humour women and so i hope she can escape that. and new SNL lady Cecily Strong i think is great and is going to do so well. and more… so partly i have needed to chew some humble pie on this one, but i do think that largely my lack of being able to name many funny women was indicative of a man-heavy Hollywood machine which is hopefully crumbling as there are clearly some very funny women out there [and a little secret of my own is that somehow i used to hold on to that theory despite having been the biggest fan of the Carol Burnett show which featured some incredibly strong and funny women of which Carol was queen – love me some Carol Burnett!] So apologies ladies, but cheering on the spaces that are being created for more of you to be able to show me the funny. special mention must be made to April on Parks and Rec [Aubrey Plaza]. Flip.

# there should be a thesis on this and maybe there is, but one of the best laughs [if not THE best imaginable laugh] has to be the inappropriate laugh – i was once asked to leave a Student Christian Association missions trip meeting [and rightly so, by the late Rory Prest] because i got into an uncontrollable laughter loop because of some private joke someone had with me that kept setting me off. the most inappropriate laugh i have ever had was when i bumped into a friend in a mall and he told me his dad had cancer [or possibly even had died of cancer] and i burst into laughter [and have no idea why – presumably the shock of the situation – but you cannot explain that one away – that was quite definitely the worst laugh of my life] – but funeral laughs and serious meeting laughs and church laughs tend to be the most incredible laughs and the ones you don’t get to enjoy because you spend the whole time biting your tongue or your hand or something to try and make them stop [anyone have any stories of this? please do share below]

# i should have added my friend Megan Donald to the best laughs to get – a few years ago when i was one of the pastors at the vineyard church in Stellenbosch my friend Megan and i used to go regularly to watch bad [as in lame, not as in dodgy] movies such as Vin Diesel in The Pacifier which gave us some classic lines such as ‘We’re navy seals – this is what we do’ and ‘It’s my way – there is no highway option’ and such classics as ‘Monster House’. and ‘Shark Boy and Lavagirl’ [altho i think i always called her Lavalamp girl for some reason] in 3D – our quest was bad lines which became private jokes between us and i used to use them to good effect by sneaking them into sermons in which case Megs would suddenly burst out laughing in church and no one would no why. one of the best moment of those, which was not directly movie-related was the one time we went to see some movie and i think we couldn’t get in or something and ended up at a restaurant and someone told us the joke, ‘Why are pirates cool? Because they arrr’ and i made a big deal of the joke and it had got huge airplay between us and then a few days later at church, with Megan sitting in the front row, I asked the inevitable, ‘Why are pirates cool?’ and decided to follow it up with the more misdirectional, ‘Because they wear eye patches and they fight with swords’ and so everyone else just stared at me for not being funny whereas Megan burst out in her great Megan laugh…

the biggest moment of backfire of that was after Megan and i saw the less lame but quite hectic movie ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ which is an incredible movie but pretty hectic and graphically violent and so not the normal thing i would be happy watching and Megan spent at least a third to two thirds of the movie hiding under her jersey… one classic scene in the movie has the hero making her way through this room where there is this table filled with a feast of food that she is not allowed to touch and this creature at the table has a face with no eyes and then he grabs his two eyes [can’t remember where from] and embeds them into the palms of his hands so when he sticks his hands on his face he can see out of them – quite disturbing but also funny and bizarre and as we walked out of the movie i turned to Megan and said, well you know what i’m going to do – next time i preach i am going to put my hands in the position and you are going to explode in laughter… turns out the very next day i am asked last minute to read a passage in church by the main pastor, Chris, and it just happens to be the one talking about the body of Christ and the line ‘the eye cannot say to the hand i don’t need you’ and as i am reading i am thinking of how i can use this passage to make Megan laugh when suddenly i get to that line and just as i read it i burst out in uncontrollable laughter [great if you know the story but less great if you are the pastor and congregation and the youth pastor is reading an innocent passage and suddenly bursts into laughter] – so big payback for all the times i got Megs… but we had Megan and Crazy Dave [who had what could only be described as a guffaw of a laugh] and Sune who also had a huge laugh and any time we could get any of them laughing [or the one time all three together] it was a moment to be proud of…

# My friend Belinda Goodrich from Baptist music and drama team, W.O.W. team that i was one for a year used to find me particularly funny and one joke in particular [which isn’t really all that funny] used to slay her when i told it [or later just said the opening line] and so that was a huge boost to my confidence and i used to whip it out often:

There was once an old spinster who tried to hide her fading eyesight from a prospective suitor so she stuck a pin into a tree. The next day they were out walking and she pointed at a tree far in the distance and said, ‘Hey, isn’t that a pin sticking out of that tree?’ And as she ran to retrieve it she tripped over a cow. 

[must have been in the telling]

# in terms of people that make me laugh, i have a lot of people in my life who do that and i am so grateful for them – any of my best guy mates – Duncan and Rob and Reegs [especially when it comes to good old innuendo] and also MJ the Phillip and especially my mate Dreadlocked Mike can make me laugh a lot and i love spending time with them when that is happening – some of my best times are sharing laughs with those guys. my TheatreSports team on so many occasions and in so many ways and the best part of that has often been making the laughter happen together – i can’t thank these guys enough for letting me play with them. And there are a whole host of other people who on occasion or consistently have made me laugh and if i were to list them all, surely i couldn’t. but thank you each and every one of you. laughing is fun.

when it comes to Hollywood i am a big fan of funny Jim Carrey, who we haven’t really seen for a while – next year they are releasing the sequel to Dumb and Dumber and i just don’t know that i’d hedge bets on that being funny – could go either way – but i used to love him on In Living Colour [back before he was famous] and then as Ace Ventura and some of his other earlier roles [what i have really appreciated about him though is how great he has been in some serious roles – Man in the Moon and The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind jump to mind] and beyond him there have been a bunch of others but i have been noticing a growing trend of those who used to make me laugh not being able to make me laugh much any more. It started when Pauly Shore had his hair cut because in California Man [Encino man to Americaland] and Son-in-Law he was great and then he cut his hair and he was rubbish… and in more recent times Adam Sandler [great in Wedding Singer and Happy Gilmour and others] has been going backwards at a pace of knots and even Will Ferrell has just gotten worse and worse and it looked like he might redeem himself when it was announced that Anchorman II was going to be made and the previews looked semi good and i got way too excited and it was the second WORST movie of the year for both tbV and i [R.I.P.D. beat it hands down] and just such a disappointment – where have all the funny guys gone? And maybe it’s that the women are taking over? Or maybe it’s just that they all moved to tv because Steve Carrell and both Nick Offerman and Chris Pratt [from Parks and Rec] are incredibly funny as is Adam Scott actually and Rob Lowe has been an amazing re-invention as a truly funny guy on the show… but on the big screen, it has been a while since we saw some genuine funny.

# probably what i have enjoyed more in the last few years is serious guys playing comedic roles and Christopher Walken [who i never used to like cos he creeped me out] is probably the top of that pile – John Malkovich in both the Red movies as well as Helen Mirren in particular [talk about funny women] embraced the silliness of their roles with such seriousness that they became even more funny.

# authorwise my hero is Terry Pratchett who has such a gift and his Discworld series of comedic fantasy contain such brilliance and humour that i can’t imagine a time when he hears his first sentence in all caps and his writing is no more – i have found Jasper Fforde and in particular his ‘Thursday Next’ series to be what i call a poor man’s substitute but i feel like he is finding his funny and getting stronger from book to book. Tina Fey’s ‘Bossypants’ autobiography was a great addition to things i find funny this last year and look forward to more from her.

and i could continue, but this time i really won’t – so thank you for joining me on this journey – i’m sure there is much more to say and write but i’m glad for the chance to have been able to at least share some overview of my relationship with funny – i am very serious about being funny in the best of possible way and hope that it is a skill that i am able to grow and improve and diversify as time goes on. i will probably continue my attempts at going viral or semi-viral or something with the main intention of drawing an audience for all of the much more important stuff i feel i have to share on here.

thank you to all of you who have laughed with me or at me or with me at me – i hope that it will prove to be a great decision of mine to have chosen funny over neutral and i hope that in small and big ways i have been able to put smiles on a lot of your faces, particularly in the mouth area.

As Brett Andy might say, ‘I realised I’d been making a mountain out of a molehill. The mole family in particular was not amused.’ 

dreadssmell

[To return to the start of this series and read how Brett Fish found his funny… or didn’t… click here]

[Continued from part i]

as i said before, one thing i take really seriously in life, is humour:

‘To me, clowns aren’t funny. In fact, they’re kind of scary. I’ve wondered where this started and I think it goes back to the time I went to the circus, and a clown killed my dad.’

[Jack Handey] 

‘I imagine a horse drawn carriage would be a really ugly thing. For starters, it must be almost impossible to grip a pencil with hooves. Plus there is all that fine detail around the edges to consider.’

[Brett Andy]

[one of my funniest guys followed by one of my attempts at making humour like on of my funniest guys, which you can find more of here]

so i didn’t actually plan to write the previous blog post – it just kinda was there and i started on it and suddenly it became this thing needing to be ended off before it became a book and since i hadn’t finished going where i was wanting to go when i started it, i figured i should carry on. it was one of the most personal blogs i have written and contained some stories and revelations that i have never really shared with anyone, especially the bullying stuff. i guess because my self-identity was pretty strong from quite a young age, due to my faith in God, that that stuff never really got to me so much, or at least not in a way that led to any destructive behaviour or anything.

one of the main points of it was that i really hoped to be quite funny in life and in certain contexts and with particular people i have been – and maybe that is enough, or should be – but i guess i always secretly harboured the hope that on stage or in a book or online or something i would be ‘discovered’ and a whole lot more people would find me funny. and also wanting to write a funnier blog [not always but sometimes, something that would really make people happy] and realising that for me that is a really difficult thing to do – i really seem to struggle to write funny [more than i struggle to be funny] and i’m not sure why that is, but stop it.

someone who i think achieves that writing-wise is a woman named Jamie Wright who calls herself The Very Worst Missionary and her blog makes me smile and laugh on quite regular occasions, but she also totally knows how to drive an uber serious point home and nail it between your eyes. [a classic of hers would be how she manages to capture so brilliantly awkwardly her mistrust and lack of skill at ‘The Hug’ – take a look at this one!]

when it comes to stand-up, which i’ve always wanted [but been too scared] to try, i have a strong feeling that once i got going i would be great because one of my skills is working a crowd – i have just never been able to come up with the starting material to lay a good foundation to be able to work a crowd from. and so i never have. and perhaps i never will. [although in my mind i still like to at least think i will and maybe the material that is naturally rushing towards me in the Americans and African Geography theme might be enough for a set one day altho i will need to disclaim that this is a true story… no, South Africa itself is a country. please stop asking me what country i am from. still South Africa. yes.]

THE FRIEND WHO DID LIGHTS AND AN IMPROV LIFELINE

i guess one of the things i am most grateful to my ex-girlfriend Kirsty for, is having a friend called Karen.

Karen used to do the lights for an improv comedy show in Cape Town called TheatreSports [altho these days they are now called Improguise and they do TheatreSports]and because we were friends with her we ended up going to see quite a lot of their shows. and because we went to see quite a lot of their shows i feel like we eventually got to see them for free or something.

but i sat there for a year and i watched these masters of comedy and improvisation and i thought to myself repeatedly, ‘i can do that’ although in my head i imagine the word ‘better’ probably ended off that particular sentence.

and so, somehow i ended up doing the TheatreSports course with one of the scariest women [when she is mad] who was [and always has been in my experience] the most gentlest person when leading people through a very scary-by-nature class where it is all about making things up on the spot [and perhaps trying to have those things make people laugh!] and who led [and leads] and incredible class and i really, honestly believe that everyone in the world should do the Introduction to TheatreSports course once in their life as it is so helpful for learning to think creatively, for helping break your inhibitions and for teaching you how to be generous in helping other people look good.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

# let me give a bit of a sidebar here, because i believe this is of the utmost importance in terms of my journey – the way TheatreSports generally works is that you do the course and then there are three options given to you:

1. Thanks for doing the course. I hope you had fun. You will make an excellent librarian.

2. Thanks for doing the course. I hope you had fun. We would love to have you as part of our team. Feel free to join us for class once a week and we would love you to do the front of house and lights for approximately 6 months before you ever have a hope of being on stage. [this is not said to people but is the general understanding – new people from a course do door and lights for about 6 months before any of them are given a shot on stage and some of them might never be]

3. Thanks for doing the course. I hope you had fun. We would like you to play in two week’s time.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

From most of the courses i have been around for, i can’t remember many more than three people [out of a group that might be 15 to 25] be asked to join us for class. i think everyone who has been invited to class has been a number 2 in terms of the descriptions above.

In fact, i have only ever seen one number 3 that i remember [and that could really just be my memory, but this is the one that stands out] and that was me. And i honestly don’t know that i would have managed to stick around for 6 months not playing if i had not been given the chance. Hopefully i would have. But i know for absolute sure, that the fact that i got on to stage to play with them almost immediately was the hugest boost for my confidence and in my opinion, improvisation is 80% confidence and 20% skills and funny or something like that.

Ashley Brownlee and Megan Choritz, now Furniss, are in my opinion the best TheatreSports players i have ever worked with [and there have been a bunch of other hugely talented people as well] and the secret with them was that they could come up with amazing ideas most of the time… but on occasion they could also have a pretty crap idea and deliver it with an amazing character or with such incredible confidence that it would be brilliant and the audience would love them. i have seen many lesser skilled players have amazing ideas and deliver them nervously and they have crashed and burned. so much of it is confidence. and i am so grateful that, for what ever reason [maybe shortage of players when i was around] i was given the chance to get on to the stage quite quickly.

and sometimes i was good. and sometimes i was really really bad.

i remember one excrutiating Rag show we did in the Baxter theatre [an annual show for the local university students where they got stand-up often filthy comedy for an hour and then we brought our family friendly show for an hour] where we were playing a warm-up game called ‘Environment’ which is a guessing game where the audience pick three words while you are out of the room and then you come in and play the scene in the environment they give you and try stumble on to the words.

Ashley Brownlee: best guy i ever played with.

Ashley Brownlee: best guy i ever played with.

 Ours was set in a Spur and i got stuck on stage as the head waiter or chef as teammate after teammate came on and guessed food suggestions for the last word we just couldn’t get and left again. Embarrassing, awkward, awful and i died a little inside. fortunately i also remember one of my highlight moments ever came at the end of that show and i forget the exact scene but we were playing Music Style Replay and Ashley and i managed to get our tongues stuck to a frozen ski lift and were singing a rousing duet that brought the house down.

i played with the TheatreSports crew for just under a year and in the beginning there is very much [even if just in your head] the feeling of you being the newcomer and this subtle gap between you and the regular players – they don’t treat you any differently and it is probably again linked to a confidence thing [as early on, most of the notes sessions we have after a show where we discuss how things went and try to learn from them, seem to be aimed at you because you are messing up the most] but i do remember the moment ‘it happened’ and suddenly i was one of the team – and having played for 11 years with them i got to see that dynamic happen with other people as well where there is this moment of ‘yup, you’re really in’ and i imagine each player probably experiences that differently.

so if my first lifeline was being thrown quickly on to stage, my second lifeline happened a year or two later. as i mentioned i was with TheatreSports for a year and then i went overseas to do the Youth With A Mission course that i did in Holland, heading to the UK and London specifically first so as to make money to pay for it. but before i left i really thought it would be a great idea to proselytise the entire team and in a very messy way that was brought about by circumstances and time constraints and fear i guess, i ended up writing a long letter comparing aspects of TheatreSports and improv games and then giving it to each of them and leaving the country.

it did not go down so well.

SO MUCH GRACE AND LOVE 

and i was away for just over a year and i knew that everyone was really pissed with me. and so i just tried to keep/build relationship by sending postcards and emails and staying in touch and letting them know that i missed them.

time managed to heal a lot of wounds. and my TheatreSports crew were incredibly gracious. i remember literally having one moment back stage with my ‘Stunt Double’ friend Sarah before going on to do a show and then it was left in the past. it was a few months after my return that i felt my moment of transition from ‘new guy’ to ‘one of the team’ and i just soared from there.

so much fun. so much funny. so many great memories and great memories of not-so-great-corporate-show memories and trips to Namibia and Sun City and all around Cape Town for a whole bunch of very different shows. i loved getting to lead TheatreSports courses with Megan and others in the team. fionaquite possibly one of the fun highlight moments of life [and a running gag between me and my teammate] was the time Fiona Du Plooy and i were doing a workshop at a boy’s school in Cape Town and playing a game where you basically set up the next kid in line with an action [with the strong instruction to never make anyone do anything you would not do yourself] and one of the boy’s when asked ‘what are you doing?’ [usually the answer is something like ‘I’m eating an ice-cream’ and then the next kid mimes eating an ice-cream] responded with ‘I’m sucking a ferret’ and despite losing Fiona almost completely to giggles at the suggestion, before we had a chance to interject and re-emphasise the instruction, the next boy in line mimed sucking a ferret as if it were a giant lollipop… needless to say we needed a time-out to get Fiona back and it has been a private joke between us for years…

the key focus of TheatreSports is teamwork and making each other look good and i think i took a little while to learn that one, whereas i was surrounded by generous folks who were always modelling it for me – but i tended to try to get the laugh for myself and often do it at the expense of the scene or the believability of the scene and that was never very cool of me and i often got ‘shouted at’ in notes. i guess it was the struggle between finally having the space and the skills to be funny and having people [a whole audience of them] think i was. but i owe so much to that tireless group of improvisers who showed me grace and forgiveness and patience on so many occasions as i learnt to do improvisation more as a team player.

altho one aspect does stand apart from all of that. my favourite game from the beginning [my watching days] was a game called Sign, where much like the recent Mandela memorial service, someone gets up and makes up a whole lot of sign language. the game is played as an interview where two people are given a topic and the third person recreates the entire interview in a made-up sign language.

in my opinion, Ashley Brownless is the king of that game. is and always will be. i used to love watching him do the sign language and because he was so good, no one else ever wanted to try it. if we played Sign, Ashley was going to do the signing.

signi imagine there must have been times when Ashley wasn’t around during our time at TS together and i probably would have tried doing it. but it was really when Ashley left that i started doing it more and more and then suddenly i became the go-to person for sign and at some point people even started referring to it as my game. that was a big moment for me. i have always said that i am not as good an actor as most of the rest of TheatreSports [who generally had some kind of dramatic training] and so when it comes to creating [and holding] characters and making scenes happen, i was always on the back foot [especially in the early days, hopefully i’ve improved]. so i used to generally excel at games that involved words or quick wit or cleverness [my absolute favourite game being one we invented as a team called Jonathan’s Lisp where we would get two consonants from the audience and if it was a ‘F’ and a ‘P” then ever ‘F’ in the scene that our characters spoke would be replaced with a ‘P’ – it was a lot of silly pun].

so the idea that i was really good at one particular game really was a great ego and confidence boost for me. and i just also loved playing that particular game so much as well.

and so being part of that amazing group of creative and clever and witty and adventurous and generous people is one of the things i really miss a lot from being away from South Africa [for close to three years now – although in Jan this year they let me play a bunch of shows when i was there and that was so much fun!]

MY NON-EXISTENT [SO FAR] INTERNATIONALIMPROV CAREER

and i did audition for two shows while i was over here:

[1] the first was a group called Comedysportz in Philly and they were really great – as with TheatreSports days of old i would sit in the audience and watch their show and think, ‘I am definitely better than at least half of these people’ and so i was super amped to play but in all honesty probably would not have had the time with our Philly work/home schedule – I went to an audition [and i really suck at auditions – my humour, as mentioned, works well playing off an audience] and thought i did decently, but they auditioned about a hundred people in three days in three minute auditions and so i really didn’t have much of a chance and didn’t make it. i was bummed, but playing improv for 11 years with an amazing bunch of people back home and knowing i could do it, meant that it didn’t ding my confidence or identity at all. their loss really. i still enjoyed watching a bunch of their shows and made friends with some of the people who played and they had some really great players as well.

[2] in the first few weeks in Oakland we found a place online and i went and auditioned there and they said they would email us back with the results within 24 hours and i never heard back from them. i auditioned with about 12 other people and easily thought i was in the top 2 so really didn’t think i wouldn’t get in. however, while i was auditioning, my wife Val was outside waiting for me and got to witness their ‘A-Team’ practising and she told me later it was a really horrible experience with people blocking each other and fighting on stage and just doing a bunch of stuff that didn’t make for good improv. so bullet dodged i guess.

but i do miss playing and am looking forward to a guest appearance at a show or two in Jan/Feb when we head home for a visit which is but weeks away. i have been playing around with the idea of perhaps running an improv course here in Oakland and seeing if we can get a little something together. but we will have to see.

so the TheatreSports crew and my years in improv definitely helped play a huge role in terms of me finding my funny and it has been so amazing to perform for and entertain literally thousands of people over the last decade and more. thank you thank you thank you to everyone who played big and small roles in that.

i feel like there is one more part to share [anyone make it down this far?] which will focus on the more recent years, my failed attempts at viral success and my discovery of a really tiny audience who really appreciate my funny way more than they should and have inspired me to keep on trying simply because i love seeing how they interact and looking at attempts at Jack Handeyesque humour, a nutcase called Brad Fish [who at least four schools in South Africa invited into their online classrooms to teach English to], my standup pulpit and the biggest [and sometimes hardest but most fulfilling when it comes] laugh to strive for – that of tbV.

to close off, one of my favourite movie lines which comes from a Bond movie and was perhaps meant in all seriousness, but which i find one of the greatest and funniest lines of all time – picture Sean Connery’s James Bond strapped to a table with a gold laser beam making its way slowly towards his privates as villain Auric Goldfinger looks on:

James Bond: Do you expect me to talk?

Goldfinger: No, Mister Bond, I expect you to die.

[to be continued…]

corpsing megan

I did that. Gold medal right there.

and of course in 11 years of improv’ing where more often than not i have been on the opposing team to Megan, one of my favourite [naughty] things to do is when we do play a game together and i find a way to corpse [make her break character and laugh] her – because she is such a pro that it doesn’t happen often, hence the challenge, and the reward when this results:

[To continue on to part iii which looks largely at my stand-up preaching and the three jokes i invented, click here]

One of my favourite topics in life must be Americalanders and Geography.

Brought on in huge part by the majority of the international sports they compete in [you know, things with ‘World’ in the title like ‘World series’] being among themselves, which is quite honestly probably the only reason I know about places like Lahore, Hyderabad and Pallekele [you had to google that one, hey?*].

By now we have learnt on more than one occasion that while they are always excited to hear we are from South Africa, they sometimes still want to know which particular country from South Africa we are talking about.

And we know that some of them were surprised at the low numbers of African Americans present in the country of our country.

But today my faith was restored as i went inside the bank to draw some money on my credit card and transfer it to my local account.

As I was about to leave, the lady behind the window apologises because she made a mistake on my slip – “I didn’t realise that you opened your bank account in Pennsylvania” [where we lived when we stayed in Philly] and so she started filling out the slip again.

Then she looked at me and said, “I didn’t even know Pennsylvania was in America.” And I was like, “Oh?”

So i asked her, “So what country are you from?”

She replied that she was born in Mexico but had moved to Americaland when she was ten [She didn’t use the word Americaland though, that was me]

So I responded in a way that was much less sarcastic and mean than it will come across in typed print, “Oh, don’t they teach Geography in school here?” with a smile.

Without skipping a beat, she replied with a smile, “No, it’s just that I always mix it up with that other one… you know…”

My mind started racing for things that sounded like Pennsylvania and weren’t in Americaland, but i have to admit i was drawing blanks.

“Oh yes, Transylvania!” She replied.

I gave my most serious version of an, “Oh yes, that one” that i could muster, grabbed my slip and left.

Not that Transylvania is not an actual place that does actually exist in Romania and all. But, you know. Made my day. [maybe it was the two tips of my teeth protruding through my lips at the edges that confused the poor woman]

Keep on Americaland, keep on. You bring me smiles… [having tried the label 20 African countries as quick as you can game recently i know that i have to shine the focus elsewhere]

 

 

 

[*yes, i had to google ‘Pallekele’ as well, but i do know it in my head and nod knowingly when it comes up on the news…]

i mean CLEARLY not my wife, but i imagine this resonates with maybe one or two people out there [who should probably not identify themselves] and with this, Stephan Pastis pretty much declares his quest for life singleness:

pearlsbeforegrumpywife

 

[For a more safer for everyone Pearls before Swine strip, click here]

[For a somewhat punnier Pearls before Swine strip relating to France, click here]

 

jackThe clear winners of round I were:

[4] ‘I would imagine a horse drawn carriage would be a really ugly thing. For starters, it must be almost impossible to grip a pencil with hooves. Plus there is all that fine detail around the edges to consider.’ [Brett Andy]

[6] “I think the story of Hansel and Gretel teaches us that it’s okay to push old people into ovens. But only if they first tried to eat you.” [Brett Andy]

and

[5] “After watching the cricket for five days, I thought to myself, “I’ve got to get myself a more interesting bug!” [Brett Andy]

Which deep thoughts by Brett Andy will dominate in round II – I am looking for your top one to three and then which one do you think most deserves to be cut from the list? [Votes in the comments section below – thank you for your time]:

[1] ‘She barked twice, following it with a low gutteral growl, “Oh no!” I thought, “Timmy has fallen into the well.”‘ [Brett Andy]

[2] ‘Who would win if a T-Rex got into a fight with a man? Answer: The man. Did I mention it was an intellectual fight? [Brett Andy]

[3] ‘Sure, he had attracted all the rats of the city, but what now? thought the Pied Organist to himself.’ [Brett Andy]

[4] ‘I realised I’d been making a mountain out of a molehill. The mole family, in particular, was not amused.’ [Brett Andy]

[5] ‘If you ever want to show off a new shoelace-tying technique you’ve invented to your long-time girlfriend, I don’t think the best way to introduce it is by saying, “Hey, I’ve got something to show you,” and then going down on one knee.” [Brett Andy]

[6] ‘Pow. The Rice Crispy who left before the group went big.’ [Brett Andy]

[7] ‘I was walking down a dark alley the other day updating my Twitter account when I noticed that someone had just started following me.’ [Brett Andy]

[To continue on to round III and add your votes there, click here]

Why choosing your words carefully when announcing big news [to shtupidt people] is wise as Stephan Pastis from Pearls before Swine brings it again:

Pearls before Babies

[For more great Pearls before Swine moments, start here]

%d bloggers like this: