Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: stand-up

Masterful Money’s Too Tight to Mention

I must confess that I have been disparaging about stand-up comedy. Not that I am a theatre purist; how could I be when my first love is improv in front of a live audience? It’s mainly because I find stand-up often resorts to the lowest common denominator when it comes to subject matter. Also, stand-up can be quite negative. I don’t enjoy it when audience members are picked on and made fun of. And because I love drama, and characters and story I have found stand-up lacking in those departments.

So when I cheekily asked Stuart for tickets to his one-man stand-up show, with the promise of reviewing it, I did have an internal moment of “what have you done? You might hate it and then what?” I didn’t need to worry. We piled into the main theatre at The Baxter (we were in the balcony) and it felt just like an overseas comedy act, like you see on BBC.

The lights and music came on and Stuart arrived, Ray McCauley style, to preach to us about our spending ways. This was just the intro to what ended up being an hour and a half of wall to wall stand up comedy of the highest order.

Stuart’s subject matter was refreshingly original, beginning with the aspirations that start getting us into financial dwang, through to living the high life beyond our means and then the harsh realities of being in a big, fat tight spot. It was material that absolutely everyone could relate to, on almost every level, and it was hilarious. My most favourite part was that there were so few cheap laughs and tricks; and it was clean and so well observed. Also, there was hardly any race or political stuff, at all, at a time when that has become a national comic obsession.

Stuart’s stage performance has so developed since I last saw him. He is filled with positive energy; vocally and physically. He has such a charming and engaging stage presence, and he is completely watchable. I loved him. He and his director Heinrich Reisenhofer have worked hard to deliver the full package, and they do. I laughed out loud often, but also found myself nodding away, relating to what he was saying, and going through. The hour and a half flew by.

Stuart, my favourite, favourite parts were the squirrels. I loved the first one, and then I loved how they came back later on in the story. My second favourite part was the loose nappies. I don’t have children so I have no idea, but the notion of them is beyond hilarious. And then my other favourite was the heavy breather in the Shoprite. Oh,and I also really loved the pervasive condition baby Dave has. Actually, looking back there was quite a lot that I really loved, and that is good.

When I left the theatre I felt good. Stuart’s show is honest and sincere, original and even a little moving. And it is kak funny. Go check it. The Baxter. Three week run. Befok.

Crazy, funny Puppet Asylum

I must be honest, I was a bit dof and didn’t connect the dots that Conrad Koch’s Puppet Asylum was basically the same show My Pro Doll and Neuro Friends, but with a totally different title, and I saw it in Jozi when I was there in August. It is hard for me to see a show twice (unless it’s improv of course) and I had quite a few misgivings when I arrived at The Baxter for opening night last night.

I had nothing to worry about. Yes the set, structure and theme is the same, but this show has been nipped, tucked, shaped, and it has tidied up really, really well. (I can’t say cleaned up because it is absolutely, totally filthy actually). Set in a ‘puppet asylum’, three of the puppets are there, working with Conrad and a doctor on the phone, to help get over their puppet issues. The famous Chester Missing is there. Hilary the aging cabaret star ostrich (who looks exactly like Sybil Sands) is in rehab, and Ronnie, the green monster kid is in a box. They all have outings where Conrad tries to help them with their problem puppet stuff.

Conrad is an amazing ventriloquist, who has honed his skill really well over the years. His craft is slick, and he really pulls it off by being not only fast with doing all the different voices, sometimes in the same sentence, but also by being a good puppeteer. His puppets really come to life.

I love Chester Missing because I love Conrad’s political take, and because Chester is a great vehicle for that voice. Conrad understands perfectly how far a ‘coloured’ puppet can go (very) in dissing the current political status quo on all sides, while Conrad himself remains the voice of reason and moderation. I find Hilary hilarious, especially in her interaction with the audience (which I won’t spoiler here), and Ronnie is a complete crowd pleaser. These characters allow Conrad to showcase his skill, wit and stagecraft brilliantly.

Director Heinrich Reisenhofer has worked hard and well to develop this show and it has come such a long way since I last saw it. I have two little niggles. I think Conrad was nervous last night (being opening who could blame him) so the first intro felt a little forced and childish. Also, I wish the dialogue and repartee with each character was more markedly different; they all get into the same style of “yes I can”, “no, please” conversations. But, niggles they are.

I like that this show straddles stand-up, puppetry, ventriloquism and theatre. I like Conrad. I like Ronnie. I love Chester. Pretty good going. In my 2012 “call to action” campaign, this is a show I feel absolutely comfortable about saying “GO”.


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