Comedy with a personal touch

2012-04-17 00:00

AFTER doing stand-up comedy as a sideline for the past four years, Jem Atkins has decided to kick his day job into touch so that he can step into the spotlight full-time.

“I decided to take the leap at the end of January,” the single dad from Durban North says. “It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever done. I have a house, a child, an ex-wife, divorce lawyers ...

“It’s the most difficult and the most rewarding thing that I’ve ever done. I’m happy, broke as hell, but happy ... [and] I know it will work out because I’m doing what I am meant to do.”

Atkins has done stand-up gigs all around Durban, and has appeared at Splashy Fen and the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown with the Durban School of Comedy (DSOC) and on stages in Cape Town and Johannesburg — but he admits that his newest project is something much more demanding.

The comedian is launching his new one-man show, The Single Dad, at the Seabrooke’s Theatre at Durban High School from Thursday to Saturday.

Asked to describe what people could expect, he said: “I’m literally opening myself up and showing the audience everything that I’ve been through in the past few years. I’ll be talking about marriage, divorce, raising a child alone, the crazy things my son, Jayden, does and dating as a single dad. The stuff you perform about yourself is always the funniest.”

Atkins added that he’d been working up to do the show for a year. And he’s certainly chosen a good time to test the comedy waters. Stand-up comedy is booming in South Africa, with comedians like Trevor Noah appearing on the Jay Leno Show in the United States and shows like Bafunny Bafunny, featuring John Vlismas, Barry Hilton and Mark Banks selling out the ICC in Durban last year.

“It’s an amazing time to be a comedian,”Atkins says. “Four years ago, when I started doing gigs, I did about one a month at the Winston, a dingy little club in Umbilo. We would have five minutes to do our stuff. Now, there are comedy gigs every week in Durban.”

The comedian, who attended Northwood Boys’ High School, will be heading to Grahamstown again this year, where he plans to present his one-man show and also share the stage with fellow Durban comics in the Durban Comedy Invasion. Both shows will be at the Scout Hall.

But Atkins admits to being a little worried about the potential competition: “There are 18 comedy shows on the Fringe this year, twice as many as last year. That’s a lot of comedy, which means people will have a lot more choice. Still, whatever happens, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Looking further ahead, he hopes to take The Single Dad on the road, and to perform it in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

He also plans to launch a new website, to let people know what he’s up to.

“You can have loads of talent and the best show in the world, but if you don’t market it properly, who’s going to come and see it?” he says.

• Catch Jem Atkins in The Single Dad at Seabrooke’s, 255 St Thomas Road, Musgrave, at 8 pm. Tickets are R60 at Compu-ticket. Please note: no under 16s.

• Keep in touch with Jem Atkins on Twitter @jematkins

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