Once upon many a comedy nights between 2011 and 2013, a young performer named Dalin Oliver took to the stage, frequently opening for well-known South African comedians like Barry Hilton and Riaad Moosa. Then he spread his wings with successful Cape Town Comedy Club appearances and more. Since then, Cape Town simply can’t get enough of this witty wonder who debuted his first one-man show, I Came, I Taught, I Left, in 2014 at the NAF. It was such a success that it sold-out – before it even opened – in 2015 for its Baxter Theatre run and had an equally successful return run in 2016. Now Oliver is back with his second comedy offering, Face For Radio, again joining forces with director and his comedic mentor, Stuart Taylor, at the Baxter Theatre from 22 August until 9 September 2017.
Building on his previous one-man show triumph, Oliver’s new show reveals he is committed to keep upping the level of fun and wit when sharing his style of hilarity, which in this show is greatly influenced by the life choices he has encountered so far. These life choices have however not always stemmed from his career as the professional comedian and radio-presenter the public now knows him to be.
A few years ago, before the stage beckoned him to consider a permanent career swap, he was referred to as Mr Oliver by the young, impressionable minds who knew him as their high school teacher. Well, only “technically”, he admits. “I didn’t swap. I say this because I only taught for a total of 5 months, which included teaching practicals. I know right? And here I am calling myself an ex-teacher. Officially, I taught for two months after qualifying as a high school maths and history teacher at UCT. It was a temporary post. Once that short stint was done, I packed my bags and headed straight for the stage. Well, I was there already, but you know what I mean. The idea was to always give stand-up comedy a proper go and see what the industry is like. 5 years later and I’m still going strong. Fortunately, I’m able to pursue my passion on a full time basis. I didn’t want to look back a few years down the line and have any regrets about not taking the chance of following my dreams.”
It is that honesty and the clear passion with which Oliver pursues his dreams that makes his comedy so appealing: He draws people in with his openness of character and expression. It is no surprise then that he is frequently described as a clean-cut, energetic entertainer.
Being described as ‘energetic’ must be a doubled-edged sword from a public expectation perspective though. There is a theory that comedians are usually funny on stage, but more serious and introverted off stage. This makes one wonder, where does Oliver see himself on that spectrum. Does he leave the jokes on the stage or is he the type of person who tries to see the funny in all aspects of his daily life all-the-time too?
“That’s a tough one. I’d like to think I leave the jokes on stage. I’ll be the first one to tell you that my jokes off stage are horrible. They are so cheesy”, he shares. “By nature, I think I’m a fairly cheerful person. I’ve been told by friends and family that I tend to lighten the mood when I’m in their company. That being said, I am a fairly introverted person. I like time on my own. I can hang out on my own and have a good time. A bit weird, I now. Socially, I enjoy the company of my close friends. It’s easier because I can be myself and not ‘Dalin the Comedian’. I guess there’s no expectation to be funny. I like it that way. Or, could all of the above just be lies and I’m actually really miserable? I guess we’ll never know. Insert evil laugh. I’m not even sure I answered the question.”
Answer the question, Oliver definitely did. With such candid revelations, he actually confirms that he knows how to embrace balance. As an entertainer he knows where to draw the line between on stage professionalism and the goofy, private, lighter side of life. This understanding seems to be key in all that keeps him at the top of his game.
When it comes to comedy, Oliver reveals that he isn’t an elitist at any level. He embraces all style of comedy equally with only the one qualification: “As long as it’s funny!” But as far as comedy as a performing arts genre is concerned, where does he see that falling on the public-impression spectrum?
“I hope people see it for the beautiful and complex art that it is. Think about it, you walking into a room of complete strangers and making them laugh. It’s far from easy. When people say it is, I tend to cry inside lol. Audience members who attend theatre usually get to see the end and polished product that has been worked on stage in the various comedy clubs. People don’t always laugh. It’s such a scary platform. You’re always putting yourself into a vulnerable space but yet you keep going back for more.”
With such insight into what makes comedy a career, Oliver must have local and international comedic inspirations too, entertainers who give him food-for-thought as he constantly develops his own skill and stage persona.
“I’m inspired by any working comedian who has managed to build a career in this rather cut-throat industry”, Oliver shares. “It’s a tough space and anyone who finds their place in it deserves to be given credit. There are so many influences. If I had to choose one who has impacted my performance and development though, then it would have to be my Director, Stuart Taylor. We’ve had many hours of working together - from work-shopping my material to performance notes. There’s a certain maturity I think I’ve developed as a performer after soaking up his experience and taking his advice on and off stage. He’s serious about funny business! It’s been a fantastic journey working with him.”
The trust level in their director-performer relationship is part of the comedy charm that powers Face for Radio too, as it gives Taylor and Oliver a chance to build on the creative dynamics they already put in place following their previous collaboration.
“He directed my debut one-man show I Came, I Taught, I Left. This is where we built the relationship. It started between 2011 and 2013 where I performed alongside him at OnBroadway and toured with him to East London as his opening act. I felt that my style of observational comedy complimented his and that he’s guidance would complement the content that I wanted to produce. He’s experienced eye has added that special touch to both shows so that it’s not just 1 hour of stand-up comedy. The most valuable lesson was learning about the economy of words; saying as few words as possible to get to the punch line. I tend to ramble. This is quite a long-winded reply. I’m not sure if that bit of advice has sunk in just yet.”
Through his quirky responses, apart from the fact that Oliver truly is an enthusiastic and animated creative, he himself adds the description “deurmekaar” when reflecting on his own, personal narrative. That self-ascribed “deurmekaar” trait may be less of a vice than he thinks. As he continues to describe the inspiration behind Face For Radio the realisation dawns that what Oliver sees as “deurmekaar” is maybe just the magic that makes his approach to stand-up sincerely entertaining.
“Face For Radio is a really cool show”, he shares his excitement. “Inspiration was drawn from the fact that it’s my 10th year post matric. Life is pretty interesting a decade after matriculating. The show is fairly nostalgic. I matriculated in 2007 and tell a few stories about the fun times we had while at High School, carefree family holidays as kids and the fun filled adventure of inviting my first Caucasian friend back to the hood for what his mom called a ‘play date’. The script then flips and looks at how I’m struggling to be an adult – 10 years later. I’m absolutely clueless but enjoying every moment of it. Most of my friends have real commitments. They are either married, engaged or have children. My biggest commitment, however, is a cell phone contract.”
Such a very reflective response to his show-approach feels like it has a hidden meaning or message for his audience though, even if that is very cunningly hiding behind “a cell phone contract”. So one must push the boundaries a bit and ask: What does Oliver want his audience to take away from the show?
“You making me dig deep here. I feel like I should say something profound that will change someone’s life. I doubt that will be the case but I hope this works. Here we go. The show will allow audience members to remember the “good old days” of being teenagers and growing up with very few responsibilities when compared to their life as adults. That being said, they wouldn’t change what they are doing now even though there were some epic memories back in the day. Everyone will be able to relate to my stories. It’s a rollercoaster of laughter according to my mom. She’s a teacher, so she knows what she’s talking about. Book now is what she says.”
As suspected, much profoundness hidden in the punchlines, plus, agreed, one never argues with a teacher! So book your tickets at Computicket to see Dalin Oliver in Face For Radio at the Baxter Theatre from 22 August to 9 September 2017