‘Absurdist’ and ‘silly’ makes you hope for the Goons or the Mighty Boosh but more often than not (certainly on the Free Fringe last year) what you get is a deconstructed gameshow format plus crappy props plus puerile humour. I have to admit my heart sank a bit when I saw the homemade ‘wheel-of-fortune’ on stage but was bolstered by the fact it was high quality homemade. Also heartening was the strangely charismatic Olaf Falafel – very tall, slightly laconic with a lost-in-translation (he’s Swedish) type jokes. He’s so engaging that I actually forget there was meant to be another guy (as promised in their lovingly crafted ‘collect and swap’ set of flyers).
The other guy is Michael Stranney and he appears when the music starts and the wheel is spun (the loose ‘gong-show’ type premise). His first character is a bit of a simpleton going on about the comings and goings in his wee Irish village. I could sense the audience starting to shift about at this point – I have to admit I wasn’t sure myself. It’s when Michael comes back after the next changeover as a bit-of-a-radge from Edinburgh trying out stand-up that a large chunk of the audience at the back baled out.
Well – the joke was on them! Michael came back a third time and this time the character was American skater-dude-type J J Hopes. Reminiscent of Bill – from Bill & Ted – J J’s attempts at comedy involve a large bag of visual props and puns. The jokes are very silly but also very funny. Everything to him is ‘awesome’ but there’s a bit of the ‘tears of a clown’ thing going on as he starts to relate everything to his girl going off with another dude. When he gets increasingly obsessive about following their relationship online but always keeping positive – like, he’s over her, right? – it’s comedy gold and I think Michael may have created a classic character who I’d love to see again.
I was having so much fun with J J I’d almost forgotten Olaf (how shallow!). When Olaf does return it’s with more good stuff including relating his clever strategy for getting over ‘stage-fright’ when using public toilets.
We’re nearing the end now but when Michael’s Edinburgh-radge character returns with his inept attempts at stand-up – ‘Anyone here single?’ ‘Anyone here in a relationship?’ – we’re in on the joke.
Likeable, original and bold. Particularly as the setting-up of many of the jokes and characters requires the audience sticking with them for the pay-off. Please go and please stay to the end – you’ll be glad you did.