It’s hard work being a comedian. People think the jovial performer simply jumps on to the stage, tells a few jokes, bags the laughs, and then goes for the big finale. However, truly being a comedic entertainer takes vision, hard work, and a good dose of inspiration. With his latest offering, Face For Radio, Dalin Oliver and director Stuart Taylor have clearly stuck to this comedic dedication recipe. Oliver and Taylor have evidently put thought and effort into the structure, tone, and pace of the show, to ultimately construct a fun, funny, and simply enjoyable product for audiences to experience at the Baxter Theatre.
The show’s title is inspired by the fact that Oliver traded a (short-lived) career as high school teacher for that of radio sports presenter and stand-up comic. (He jests that people only really make the ‘presenter-comic’ connection because of his voice, and not his nose.)
This is a comedy show that grants a great number of laughs in exchange for a theatre ticket, but the fact that the show is informed by Oliver’s personal life experiences makes it rather more of a comedy conversation than just a show. The laughter-infused conversational tangents reveal the production’s true entertaining appeal.
Face For Radio turns out to be one of the few comedy shows I’ve attended where I did not find myself dreading the possibility of audience participation. Why? Because Oliver is so comfortable in his audience interaction that when he takes to the stage, he simply starts chatting with you (as opposed to just to you). It is only halfway through the show that you realise this kind of easy conversation is his style: inviting, honest, quirky, and funny.
Apart from the show’s title display, there are no bells or whistles — which is refreshing, as it allows the audience to engage with the comedian’s thoughts and narrative. People often forget that a one-man (stand-up) comedy show still has a narrative, a script, something that is cohesive and tell you a story in some way.
Face For Radio is a sharp-witted stroll down adolescent memory lane, with funny flashbacks to the carefree days of youth off-setting familiar everyday adult struggles. Yet ‘adulthood’ is a topic that can so easily become a disjointed jumble if not properly packaged. To avoid that kind of muddle of ‘it’s tough being a grown-up’ jokes, Oliver tackles this theme from his current perspective 10 years post matriculation, while still retaining just the right degree of relatability: Everyone had that school friend with the ‘unique’ life perspective, everyone has some odd-ball family member, everyone has at some stage struggled with identity issues (or still does). Simply put, everyone still has questions, no matter their age or level of maturity, but what Oliver does better than ‘everyone’ is highlight the funny by cutting out the middling with Dalin-flair. Because Oliver puts his own personal twist on the everyday, he gets you to laugh with him — literally, because even when audience members try too hard to be his back-up act, he manages to turn his subsequent corpsing into something enjoyable to watch.
Do not be fooled into thinking that this is just some show driven by tomfoolery and fun; it has depth, too. Through his hilarious anecdotes, ranging from navigating dress codes to supporting local shops, Oliver touches on some very real social and socio-economic issues, the circumstances of which we each experience individually, and that inevitably influence our adult survival skills and perspectives, and our general outlook on life.
This dimension further characterises the authentic, honest, yet humorous approach that carries the comedic conversation straight through the show. It is by employing this very tone that Oliver surprises the audience as he ends Face For Radio without being showy or feeling the need to use a gimmick to get the audience on their feet for a standing ovation. As the lights dim, the comedian simply thanks his audience and bids them a sincere goodbye. For that lovely, refreshingly vibrant touch, I can only submit a heartfelt ‘thank you for the theatre’ in return.
If you too want to see Dalin Oliver's latest show, Face For Radio, at the Baxter Theatre, you need to book your tickets through Computicket, before the run ends 9 September 2017.