Comedian Dalin Oliver has been on the comedy scene for a while and it doesn’t look like he’s slowing down. Oliver is gearing up for the return of his one-man show 'Face for Radio' at the Baxter Theatre.
Having started his comedy career in 2010 while he was studying at UCT, the funny man always liked comedy but never thought he would be a comedian. While studying for a politics exam, Oliver found his passion when he started writing jokes and stories based on his life.
He then Googled comedy venues in Cape Town and booked his first gig at Jokers Comedy Club in Athlone. The comedian gushed about his first appearance on stage.
“Yoh! Amazing. The crazy thing is five minutes changed my whole world.”
Although that set the course for his comedy career, he finished his studies. During his honour’s, Oliver based his research project on identity politics, focusing on coloured comedians, which is also the basis for his type of storytelling since he is a light-skinned coloured man.
Comedy in South Africa has been growing, he said. There were three major venues dedicated to the art, and more nights and venues were popping up. Four comedians had upcoming Netflix specials.
“People see the success and think it’s immediate. But it’s success built over 10, 15, 20 years,” Oliver said.
Social media also plays a big role for modern-day comedians. He viewed it as a “job on its own” and said comedians shouldn’t neglect their onstage craft just to be famous on social media.
“It’s difficult to balance. I find it extremely tough.”
When it came to turning the social media following into bums on seats, Oliver said authenticity was key. “As long as your content is you, it’s organic and it’s real. Even if you only have 20 people who follow you, that 20 is going to a show.
“For me, it’s not about the numbers. It’s about loyalty.”
Speaking of people recording shows on their smartphones, Oliver said it was a hindrance for comedians and especially frustrating when working on new material and how people processed comedy compared with music. Once someone saw the video, the “ha ha” factor disappeared. If he saw his raw material online, he generally dumped it. Oliver asks audiences to be in the moment, respect the space and not record it.
Speaking about his bad experiences on stage, he said he walked off once - at a gig at SGT Pepper in Long Street, Cape Town. There were 10 people in the audience and after the introduction, he noticed nobody was listening to him. He asked the audience if anyone was listening and was met with no response. He left.
Oliver’s love for comedy kept him going. His favourite is one-man shows because people have spent money and taken the time to see one particular comedian. All the hard work behind the scenes is made worthwhile. “And when it all comes together on stage, it’s magic.”
* Dalin Oliver’s one-man comedy is at the Baxter Theatre until Saturday. Tickets are R120. The show starts at 8.15pm.