Love Factually, Alan Committie’s latest date-night comedy, presents audiences with a particular-version-of-reality-meets-exaggerated-fiction scenario. It’s reminiscent of Defending the Caveman, except this time around the Caveman has evolved into a slightly confused Every-man Hero trying to sustain a meaningful relationship in the Tinder age.
In this show, Committie once again embraces comedy as a form of theatre that’s often dismissed as ‘easy’ to crack, but which is actually quite tricky to land and can be powerful when used properly, as one can use laughter to address issues of great depth.
‘The court jester is always allowed to speak harsh truths by using comedy,’ Committie explains. ‘Comedy is able to soften the hard edges or disturbing complexities of a particular issue. And the biological effect of laughing (and releasing endorphins) is a healthy one, too. It fills people with good energy and thoughts and allows for a potential change of perspective. Or just sore tummy muscles. Both are good for you.’
With that clear understanding of comedy, it’s no surprise that Committie can easily tackle the topic of relationships in a way that results in healthy laughter and tummy-trimming cardio rather than angry scowling and sorrowful tears. After all, no one needs their entertainment to be therapy, and Committie definitely does not attempt to don a psychiatrist’s hat. In Love Factually, the comedian merely tackles that which we all find relatable —how tough it can be out there in the dating world, whether you’re single, committed, or just ready to mingle.
After having performed Defending the Caveman for eight years, Committie realised that things had changed in the world of dating. ‘Love Factually is my attempt not necessarily to deal with exactly the same issues, because I think we covered a lot of those in Caveman and those are still truths that can be held, but just to look at dating and relationships’ in a present-day setting. It’s a way of ‘looking at some of the constraints and parameters and pressures, through a comedic lens’.
‘So in some ways this show is a lot more personal than my [other] stand-up shows.’
Committie brings a well-researched show packed with wit to the stage with Love Factually. In preparing the script for the show, he consulted various sources to find interesting and insightful angles: relationship books (including Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Don’t Read Maps, Talking Cock, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, Familyhood, The Relationship Training Manual, and Modern Romance); ‘many, many online articles around numerous relatable topics (including life expectancy, dating apps, Tinder, brain functions, language usage, etc.)’; ‘random people’s Facebook rantings and musings’, and —probably most helpful of all— ‘personal experience and stories related by friends, family, and audience members over the years’ that were sometimes ‘appropriated and theatricalised’ to become part of the story of this Every-man Hero.
Even after having put that much thought and contemplation into the content of the comedy that is Love Factually, and having performed the piece 113 times already since its debut in 2016, Committie admits that —much like with his Caveman journey— he’s still discovering many relationship gems by observing audience reactions to the material and interactions with him.
‘I think the interesting thing about this show in comparison to Defending the Caveman is a matter of perspective: Caveman audiences saw married couples nodding in agreement to the “truths” spouted in that show. Younger audiences looked at it and thought, “This is what we are going to go through; wow!”. With Love Factually, younger audiences are nodding in agreement to the “truths” about dating and relationships in 2018 and older established couples are going, “Kinda glad we don’t have to go through that”. So, I would say that I continue to be surprised at how relationship issues are so universal. As much as we believe we are the only ones experiencing this problem, time and time again the opposite is proved true.’
With that in mind, one simply has to ask: Is there one couple that stands out as having given the best relationship advice so far?
‘In Love Factually, I ask for a couple that has been married the longest. Over the two and a half years that I’ve been doing this show (on and off), the longest [marriage] was in Jozi where a couple had been together for 63 years. All the advice in this part of the show is about listening, compromise, and/or finding some kind of agreement that serves both partners. And always what’s clear is that couples who’ve been together that long have a superb sense of humour!’
Those couples, however, were lucky enough to find each other in a world not yet influenced by an array of dating apps and social media platforms. Committie observes that this digitised approach to dating has had an influence on how people approach relationships now.
‘The positive is that we can now find our partner from a much wider pool of people —our grandparents found their partners on the street where they lived. With the internet and dating apps there are literally hundreds of thousands of people around the globe that you can have access to. That is potentially very exciting. But, in order to attract them you must somehow distill all your amazing complexities as a person into a couple of sentences and a photo or two —unbelievably challenging! Interestingly, though, I am seeing more and more Tinder marriages in my audience, which means that these apps are now creating opportunities for people to match with a life partner.’
In unpacking these intricacies in Love Factually, and bearing in mind the hurdles that one must overcome to find one’s significant other in today’s context, Committie also (tongue-in-cheek) looks at the way the male and female brains function. Considering this, and the various social media and dating apps referenced in the show, which one seems to be the most accurate in giving expression to the way men ‘think’ and women ‘feel’ when it comes to finding a match? Or is the success of any of these modern digital marvels really all in our heads? Do we see what we want to see based on what the movies taught us about our ‘perfect’ partner?
‘One of the points I try and make in the show is that the gender fusion and move to fluidity is a move away from clear-cut distinctions between men and women. “Men are logical and women are emotional” is and antiquated piece of rubbish. Everyone thinks and feels. But sometimes as individuals we think when we should be feeling and vice versa. Or versa vice. Or the opposite of that… I’ve got myself confused. Possibly too much thinking. Before, I would have suggested men look for certain attributes and women different ones. Ultimately, this becomes an individual choice. And the app technology allows for that individualism and uniqueness to have a place.’
In that case, what would Committie —having so insightfully turned his Caveman into a modernised Every-man Hero— say to the following: If, in the dated saying ‘Men are from Mars and women are from Venus’, ‘Venus’ and ‘Mars’ were to be replaced with social media platforms (like Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter), which would result in the best millennial adaptation of that hackneyed saying?
‘Ha! Well, framed within the (now slightly old-fashioned) 90s tension, it would be: “Men are from Twitter and women are from Instagram”. Men can be aggressive and edgy out in the twitterverse. On Instagram, women can use visual and verbal skills simultaneously to express themselves.’
Though Love Factually does include light-hearted quips like these —showcasing Committie’s style of taking commonplace silliness and using it to create great entertainment— we move the conversation about relationship advice into the philosophical arena surrounding the sustainability, reality, and truth of digitalised human connection. Surely there is something to be said for old-school first meetings in comparison to the pre-packaged profiles we interact with on dating apps? Can face-to-face interaction really be replaced that easily?
‘Never!!! No matter how sophisticated, intriguing, and efficient a dating app or social media platform is, at some point, two human beings are going to have to meet up face-to-face in the real world and discover if the online chemistry can be transferred into their real-life context. All the technology provides is a wider pool of accessible people, filtering systems, and a platform to gain more knowledge [more quickly] before your real meeting.’
Although he is well aware of the fact that true connections haven’t been (and shouldn’t be) completely replaced by the A.I. answer to love, Committie doesn’t hide any kind of prescriptive message amidst the laughter in Love Factually.
‘I’m honestly not there to prescribe any learnings. I am there to entertain and make people laugh. If I do that accurately and effectively, then, through that laughter an audience might be lured into thinking about a new idea, perspective, or strategy in relation to themselves or to them within a partnership or relationship. Sometimes, just sitting in a room full of people laughing, you realise you are not alone in this slightly bewildering world we live in.’
So, dating advice aside (as Love Factually is first and foremost a comedy show with great entertainment value), Committie wants audiences to see the show because ‘it’s a great date night show’! However, if you are single, he doesn’t want you to be discouraged —you can still laugh with him. In fact, a night out watching Love Factually could be ‘a chance to save money by not spending it on two people’.
‘And, like at a wedding, you might meet other single people at the show and you get to laugh.’ Double bonus!
So, whether you’re in a relationship, just out of one, taking a break from dating altogether, currently testing the online dating scene, or just in an ‘it’s complicated’ situation, this show has something for everyone. It’s hilarious in its relatability, complete with that unique, very Alan Committie twist! Through your interaction with Love Factually, facilitated by Committie, you’ll find the delightfully confused Every-man Hero in a cinema setting as he tries to figure out how helpful romcoms really are in explaining digitally escalated misunderstandings in the presumed (but never proved) ageless battle of the sexes.
I can definitely recommend this fast-paced, sleek, and punchline-packed comedy. Book your tickets soonest through Webtickets to see Love Factually at the Baxter Theatre by 23 June so you too can experience some great relationship-inspired entertainment.