During my first year at Rhodes University, a certain name kept popping up: Nat Caf, or Naturally Caffeinated. For a now inexplicable reason, it took me approximately six months to make the decision to attend a performance. But, at the opening monologue, I was sold. Nat Caf is Grahamstown’s own comedy improv group with a rag tag team of fresh and experienced performers.
The name itself is draped in mystery as no one seems to know how it originated. Nevertheless, anyone who’s experienced a Nat Caf show knows exactly what it stands for: energy, fun and ultimately, “getting high through comedy”. Any nineties kid will also recognise the on-the-spot comedic style from the likes of Whose Line Is It Anyway? Some may even know a few of the games such as the timeless ‘sit, stand, lean’ but the Nat Caf team brings its own ingenuity to the craft as well by introducing new and hilarious games to the mix.
To some, doing improvised comedy may seem like a task with little need for preparation, however, Nat Caf is certainly no hobby. The group rehearses intensely and the chosen emcee has to prepare a highly confidential list of games well in advance, a job described as ‘painstakingly long’. Nat Caf’s commitment doesn’t always guarantee a faultless performance but that just adds to the fun. It is in these moments of performing so close to the edge that the team really reaches its stride as these are often opportunities for an even funnier performance.
The Nat Caf troupe doesn’t just aim for the laughs though. It also sees the importance of remaining socially conscious within its comedy. Its relevant subject matter also makes for an even better show with the most recent being the overwhelmingly popular Pokemon Go! The audience reaction and involvement is hugely important and can make the show. An engaged audience energises the team and makes it more enjoyable whereas, in the words of Brad Lang, ‘a cold audience just makes it meh’.
Nat Caf’s brand of comedy has also become a unique feature within the Rhodes entertainment scene and, with its growing popularity, has upgraded from bar room to National Arts Festival stage for a few years running. The group certainly has begun making a name for itself with popular comedian, Marc Lottering, even recognising them at the NAF. The group has undoubtedly grown in the five years since its creation, graduating from a hobby-esque improv group to a highly skilled and very funny troupe which has acted as a springboard for members into the wider comedy world of South Africa.
Despite the growing success, Nat Caf retains the look of a group of friends getting together and making people laugh. The closeness and easy banter is all part of its charm and for some, is what makes it especially enjoyable. So, if you are ever in the vicinity, Nat Caf is here for your entertainment and it’s coming in hot.