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The two sides of Chris Forrest

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HELEN HERIMBI

In the SA comedy scene, there are two Chris Forrests. Two personas wrapped in one very funny person. Just don’t frow him wiff couscous. That last line was for all the die-hard Pure Monate fans. Now where was I? Ah, yes, the two sides of Chris Forrest.

One is a the eternally jovial, punchline-slinging stand-up comedian and the other is a more serious fellow who wears bifocal big-rimmed spectacles and speaks in a monotonous voice. At the end of September, the latter Forrest will present his new one man show, The Flip Side, at the Joburg Theatre. There are plans to take the show on a countrywide tour, but first up, it’s the City of Gold’s turn.

Although, we already met this deadpan character a few years ago – and you can catch up if you buy the Chris Forrest Live at The Tesson DVD – this go-around will allow him to re-introduce himself.

His name is Chris, C-to-the-H-R… that sounds so much better when Jay-Z does it. So we’ll leave the rhymes to Hov and rap it up with Forrest instead. The Flip Side will “mostly be material that a lot of people haven’t seen yet,” Forrest tells me.

Shortly after he decided to become a stand-up comedian, “I started with this dry, deadpan material, but in the past four or five years, I haven’t really done that.

“People kept coming up to me saying they wanted to see that character again. So I have decided to do a show that incorporates the two different stand-up styles. It would be like two different comics named Chris.”

Forrest has had a thriving career as a comedian on TV and stage. He has starred in many episodes of the cult classic Pure Monate Show, been an honorary black at the Blacks Only comedy shows, and become one of the leading improv players in Joburg’s Starship Improvise collective.

But how did the drier-than- Savanna character become a part of his repertoire? He cracks up before he goes back in time.

“It was at the beginning of my career when I was still shy and could not even really look at the audience. So one night – and I wish it sounded better, but this is a true story – I got very drunk, went on stage and pretended to be some-thing and the crowd didn’t really like it. Back in those days people paid like R20, but still, you paid R20 and the guy on stage doesn’t even have the decency to perform sober.

“So when I saw that the crowd didn’t like what I was doing, I began to speak slowly so as to not slur my words and my face really became expressionless,” he says, “but I was having a killer show, the audience really liked that. Everyone, even the comedians backstage, said I had a kickass set and I hadn’t even realised it.”

It was only after a fellow comedian broke down why the audience had been enthralled by him (ie the deadpan, dry vibe got them hooked) that Forrest decided this might be something to explore.

Aside from the fact that the real Forrest wouldn’t wear a “s****y brown corduroy jacket” in public, he says the main difference between his stand-up self and his deadpan self is that he’s discovered “a slower delivery can be more fun and clever because then the audience has time to think about what you’re saying”.

But make no mistake, the seasoned comedian says, “It’s more difficult to keep the audience entertained because it is quite a low energy show, but I don’t laugh much while I’m performing because I’ve heard all the jokes before.” But seeing that most of you haven’t, it might be wise to check Forrest out on The Flip Side.

Chris Forrest’s The Flip Side is at Fringe Theatre at Joburg Theatre from September 27-29. Tickets are R120 at Computicket.


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