The saying that 'you have to know where you come from to know where you are going' is very apt when reflecting on Alan Committie’s new show, Planet Mirth, currently on stage at Theatre on the Bay. In this show, he tells 2017 and its absurdity to take a hike by putting the future into retrograde as we bravely face the uncertainty of a looming new year.
With Planet Mirth, Committie strips down comedy to its essence – observation. He brings you a heartening perspective as he dots society’s emoticon invested I’s, and wittily crosses all the 2017 T’s from Table Mountain to Trump. He delves into the miscommunications that characterise our daily lives. As the bartender of comedy, he gives you a much needed therapy session by telling it like it is and making you laugh (instead of drink) your madness and fears away. In all this, he maintains his characteristic fast-paced style. In fact, it is in speeding things up that he actually slows life down just enough to make sense of 2017 as the lifestyle doccie that at best qualifies as the 2016 sequel and 2018 prequel that definitely needs some mirth.
It is no secret that Committie usually has a mind-boggling trick worked into his annual one-man shows – having dangled from silk ropes and escaped straitjackets. Naturally then, one expects another trick here too. This time around though it is quite daring and well hidden. In Planet Mirth, Committie delicately walks a tightrope, albeit it an invisible, fictional one. He takes on topics that other comedians may shy away from, as comedy can so easily turn from commentary to slur if it does not respectfully and with precision hit the mark. With this being a docucomedy, that is a necessary risk to truly accentuate the commentary that informs the laughs. How does he stay on that tightrope without falling into the insult comedy trap? He cleverly balances the hysteria with the hysterical, by packaging his observations as a likeable and relatable product. Committie actually feeds your optimism by infusing his comedy commentary with a shot of scepticism and chasing it with constant laughter inducing material from beginning to end. This leaves you either flabbergasted or highly amused, but always entertained, with his jaunty good-humour.
In this latest offering, Committie builds on his performance credibility by highlighting that a one-man comedy show is much more than a man with mic and a myriad of one-liners. With the introduction of a new character and a throwback video style skit, he reveals a clear understanding that a show of this nature is more than knowing how to set up a joke – it requires knowing how to pair acting and physical comedy timing to construct a cohesive show. It is in this that one finds the power of Committie’s collaboration with his director, Chris Weare.
With this, the solid structure of a great show is definitely present, although it would have been fascinating to see Committie build on and play a bit more with the David Attenborough documentary essence that clearly inspired his approach to unpacking and repackaging 2017. Yet, in all fairness, incorporating more Attenborough would perhaps dilute the magic of his shows, the Committie comedy essence. Even though there is a clear nod to Attenborough’s docucommentary style, it is Committie’s own planetary perspective that becomes the prominent theme, and it works. With a galactic cluster of new material, combined with a few crowd-pleasing gems, this is truly Committie as a delightful conundrum: like you’ve never seen him before, but everything that you know him to be.
Planet Mirth simply is a side-splitting triumph. You have until 13 January 2018 to see Alan Committie in Planet Mirth at Theatre on the Bay. Tickets available through Computicket.