Dalin Oliver is heading back to the Baxter Theatre, from 5 to 10 September, with the much anticipated second run of his show, Face for Radio. Naturally, a Spotlight conversation with this talented comedian was a must to hear more about the development of this show and what audiences can expect.
Having seen his first run —which was thoroughly enjoyable— the conversation starts with expectations, and whether anything has changed since Cape Town last saw Oliver perform Face For Radio.
‘Last year for the first run of Face For Radio we had a pretty simple setup in the [Baxter Golden Arrow] studio. It was basically a headphone, and in between the two cans was the name Face For Radio with some colour change. That set suited the venue quite nicely.' Although audiences may still see the original set making an appearance this time around in the Baxter Concert Hall, 'the idea is to have a fairly clean, sleek feel that’s lit well’, Oliver shares his vision. ‘So, it must be a room that’s draped nicely, with lovely parcans at the bottom lighting it up.’
Such a well-lit staged must then be paired with content that best showcases Oliver’s style of comedy. But how would one describe it? Oliver explains that he does not aim for shock value when it comes to his comedy, neither is he the type of comedian that relies on insults to get a laugh. He much rather laughs at himself. ‘In my mind, I’m a fairly clean comic. I don’t look to offend. I’ve got stories, and I speak about myself and my experiences a lot.' Oliver in fact has a great way of balancing personal experiences with audience relatability to ensure that no one leaves his show feeling like they weren't privy to all the laughs.
With that balance in mind, and seeing as his first show was about his experience as a teacher, it must be asked: What personal journey does Oliver share with his audience in Face For Radio?
‘The interesting part about Face For Radio is that when I started writing it I thought it would be about me struggling to be an adult —I was 10 years post matric at that time. As soon as I started writing the show, the arc was completely different and it became very nostalgic: The focus fell on the suburbia/non-suburbia situations and comparisons I experienced in my childhood.’ Looking back, this shift in focus is very interesting, considering that Oliver’s 2018 NAF offering was a show that embraces the initial adulting theme. For him that means a natural evolution from Face For Radio's childhood reflections.
This however leaves one to wonder how the title links up with Oliver's childhood memories, seeing as it fits best with the broadcasting world he finds himself in these days as a presenter for Good Hope FM. ‘The title is catchy, yet has nothing to do with the show', he admits.
‘In the first bit [of the show] I make a concerted effort to say why it’s called Face For Radio, and obviously I have jokes about it. One of the original reasons —and I don’t speak too much about it in the show— is that I got a Facebook message saying, “Hey, I listen to the show every morning on Good Hope and I don’t mean to sound rude; your voice sounds great, but your face don’t look so lekker." You, that’s evil, but I laughed about it. I don’t mind people having a go at me, and because I speak about my awkwardness on stage, I’m comfortable with it.' When Oliver told his friends about this no-filter message they all agreed that Face For Radio would be a great name for a show, even a show he didn't have at the time.
Oliver now uses the show name to make fun of himself, right at the beginning when he explains the title, to set the tone. ‘Once you make fun of yourself, and laugh at yourself as an awkward person, people feel okay and don’t mind that I jab here and that I jab there.’
That approach can't be easy though. It must take a lot of guts to step onto the stage and open yourself up to the audience in that manner.
‘Tons, yeah tons’, Oliver agrees. ‘Theatre audiences see the end product, because they don’t see the material when it’s being worked in the comedy clubs or in the underground circuit. People don’t always laugh at the start when you are still developing the content and material —you feel the awkward silences. But, through the growth that I’ve experienced on stage, I don’t mind the quiet moments or the lack of laughter. I’ve learnt to gig with a purpose. By embracing those awkward silences, Oliver turns those silences into pauses that aids the delivery of his material so that it fits the rhythm his style of comedy requires.
It's not only those gigs that help him develop his material, but also the established comedians who offer up advice and guidance. One such comedian is Stuart Taylor, his Face For Radio director. This collaboration between Oliver and Taylor is not a new one. In 2013 already Oliver toured with Taylor as his Learner Husband opening act. The comedy-journey that Oliver and Taylor have walked together since then is testament to the fact that Oliver believes in building relationships.
It is then no surprise that for Face For Radio Oliver has surrounded himself with a great support team. Along with Taylor, his circle of trust includes Ranique Roberts of Big Mouth Entertainment (who understands both the show and what he wants and needs for Face For Radio), his long-time friend, designer, and animator Andre Davids, and photographer and comedian, Esti Strydom.
‘It’s all about the people that you know; the people who populate the space with you. You develop a relationship as you grow into business, and trust follows.’ That trust-circle Oliver regards as crucial, because ‘there’s no blueprint to what we do and that’s the scariest thing ever’.
There may be no blueprint for the development of a one-man stand-up show, though it’s not all about logistics —the most important part is the development of the narrative. With comedy shows being scripted, Oliver points out that ‘the toughest part, or the ideal part, is to make it look as if it’s a conversation —which it should be'. That’s a skill ‘that comes with stage time, comfort levels on stage, and just performing in different spaces across the country’. Along with that, Oliver also finds that it’s important for every show to ‘have that unique element’ that links it to him as a comedian.
Conversational sounds very much like it could include audience participation though… and participation is something that most audiences fear, especially in comedy shows. Oliver banishes that fear, as he explains that his focus is more on audience engagement than participation. In fact, engaging with his audiences is one of the key elements to Face For Radio, where it is all fun and nothing is forced.
‘For example, there’s bits where I speak about the differences I experienced moving from a government school, South Peninsula, to a Model C, Wynberg Boys. I comment on the fact that when my friends from the suburbs came to visit they didn’t know what a house shop was and that there’s no Woolies, just literally a house and in that house a shop.’ In telling that story Oliver draws the audience into the conversation: ‘I purposefully pause and ask, “Do you guys know what a house shop is?”. Then, for those who do, I’ll ask, “What’s the different names you have?” The fun of an engagement is that audience members out of their own start shouting out the shop names.’
Because of this personal approach, Oliver sees Face For Radio as ‘a very Cape-Town-ism show’. ‘I have travelled with it, but there’s nothing better than a hometown laugh —it’s delicious. And the Baxter is a special space too.’
So go join Oliver in that special space, and book your tickets through Webtickets to see Face For Rado at the Baxter from 10 to 15 September.
All photos are by Candice van Litsenborgh and used with the permission of Canned Rice Productions. The photos remain their property. Permission must be obtained from Canned Rice Productions before using these photos in any capacity that goes beyond the sharing of this online article.