Rustum August died on the second last day of August. The end of August. He would have liked that irony.
One of my closest friends and a fellow comedian. A guy whose mind was so far out of the box that the box was a cooler bag. ( … for those who knew his joke – Thankssss )
As Simmi Areff said in his blog post about Rusty (Which you can read here), everyone has their own unique Rustum memories. It was said of Rustum, by another comic (I forget who) that his personality was like that of a flasher. Not immediately visible to all, but the second he chose to expose it to you, as an individual – it made a lasting and unique impression on you. It is for this reason that each and every person who was lucky enough to know Rustum has their own private memories. I don’t mean ‘lucky enough’ in some over sentimental bullshit. I mean just that. Lucky. He didn’t choose to let many people know him. One of my favourite memories of Rusty is when a (very attractive) girl bounded over to him on set of a TV commercial that he and I had been randomly scouted for whilst drinking beer on Long street the day before, she was clearly excited to see someone she recognised, and even more so because Rustum had that dark eyed aloofness that made ladies swoon. She greeted him warmly and asked him how he was. He blinked at her. Sighed. Waited just a beat past awkward and replied. “Fine”. She fumbled over a few more social exchanges – meeting his monosyllabic answers, until i was staring intently at a spot on my own shoe to make this SOMEHOW less awkward for everyone. She coughed once and sidled off. Rustum turned to me and said “I don’t know why people insist on talking to me. I always make it as awkward as possible.” At which I fell over laughing. That poor Girl. Like I said, I was lucky to know him.
Rustum would stand on stage in silence, staring at the audience for 2 mins. Then quietly say. That one was for the telepaths. Thanksss.
I have too many memories of Rustum to write them out here. And for that I am grateful. This all happened so fast. It’s surreal. Part of my brain doesn’t even understand what my fingers are typing right now. I remember seeing Rustum after he first went to hospital with chest pains. He went on stage at the Armchair in Obz and did the most hilarious rant about how shit being in hospital was. That was in May. Only.
Four days later he found out it was cancer.
Rustum August. One of my most favourite and dearest people. Who thought that if he stared at a girl he liked long enough, he’d break her will and she’d eventually succumb to wanting to sleep with him…”It’s all about maintaining eye-contact. It’s all in the eyes” he’d say. The stare Brendan Murray named “The look of a baby seal’s eyes, moments before it’s about to be clubbed to death.” Believe it or not, this technique worked (much to my surprise). Just never on me, (much to Rustum’s.) ;-)
I still remember the first time I met Rustum. I actually even blogged about it. Because why? Because he made it awkward. At the bar at the Purple Turtle (an old comedy haunt) long before I myself became a stand-up, I was introduced to Rustum by Siv Ngesi (who was not yet my roommate) ‘This is Angel’, “Angel? Hi, I’m Devil.” He said, dead-pan. I looked at him. Then he said “Get it?” and put his two fingers to make horns. I laughed once. Then blinked at him. Yes. I got it. That memory makes me chuckle. Now i really do get it.
I saw in the New Year with Rustum. We were at a rock festival performing comedy. Early in the evening, I had found my tent and passed out, pretty much over the whole countdown vibe due to too much alcohol and other factors. I was happy to be alone. Some time around midnight the zip of my tent opened and Rustum sidled in. I grumbled at him. He told me he just needed a place to sleep. We drank some whiskey out of a bottle I had hidden in my tent. I wasn’t alone on New Years after all. And I was glad for the company. We listened to the sounds of people counting in the new year, we judged them. We laughed. Then he lay down, sans sleeping bag. I had his long bony frame, sprawled all over the minimal sleeping area, in the heat of summer in a space of minutes. I kicked him and shoved him all night as I sighed at him. He told me there was no where else to sleep. And since we were camping in the performers area of the fest, some over zealous band member started blowing a trumpet at sunrise. A trumpet. At sunrise. In a campsite. To hungover people? Rustum lifted his head said: What theeeee fuck? and went back to sleep.
When we all climbed out of our tents the next morning, I realised that MOST of the comedian’s tents had stayed empty over-night. Either because of them finding girl’s tents to sleep in (high five) or because of partying all night. I looked at Rustum who grinned. He had known that all along. “Now you’ve slept with me!” He winked. I replied with an irritated eye roll. Which made him laugh more. Rustum loved nothing more than testing people past their comfort zones. For his own entertainment. Looking back, I wouldn’t trade that memory – as sleep deprived and uncomfortable as it was – for anything. Thankssss.
Rustum would always BBM me saying “Hi” and the nature of BBM (for those who don’t know) it comes up WITH the person’s name (this is 2012 after all) So I’d reply… “hi” waiting for what he wanted to say… and then, without fail, the next message would come in: “It’s me.” That made me laugh, every time. His dry irony. *sigh*
Rustum. I love you. For all the late night chats. All the BBMs. For all the beers. For all the moments of shared heartbreak tales. For all the encouragement you gave me. For all the lifts you bummed. For all the times you hugged me and inappropriately licked my face. and most of all, for giving me my first ever comedy gig. For believing in me enough to book me again… for giving me my true love.
For a person who prided himself on his ability to be aloof. Rustum was one of the very few people who ALWAYS knew what to say, how to say it and when to say what. Some of the words of advice he’s given me, in comedy, love and life will stay with me forever. He’d say things so matter-of-factly, so pragmatically, that you couldn’t help but say: “You’re right.” When no one else could get through to my stubborn inner thoughts, Rusty could.
This is a loss I can’t fathom yet. I’m so sad that you’re gone, but so happy that you’re free. I’m glad I got to buy you your last beer 2 weeks ago. Even though you said it tasted like shit.
He called me “Chukurookoo… from zim” because it’s a line from a parody rap song that gave us endless pleasure to hear, quote and laugh at. Every time He’d say “Chukurookoo” he’d grin. That’s the face I will hold onto for always xxxx
“I want to eat life.” – Rustum August.
Here is a youtube made by @solidgame of Rustum, Shaun Jejane and I hanging out on Long street.
“You know what really gets on my nerves? …Skin” – Rustum August.
We shall name this month after you. We shall name it August.
“I saw a fish swimming alone the other day… It was expelled.” – Rustum August
“My Grandfather has a really old watch. It’s a Fossil.” – Rustum August
“A Friend of mine brought her Louis Vuitton Handbag to the beach. She said it was the coolest bag on the beach. But I had to disagree with her. Because I had a cooler bag.” – Rustum August