You know where you stand with live comedy, opines Purple puppet Randy (McLeod’s Daughters, House Husbands); if a joke doesn’t get laughs, you stop telling it. But with a novel, you have to wait until it’s out in the world to know if it’s any good. And what if it isn’t? Randy confronts this fear in Randy Writes a Novel, a live reading of excerpts from his unpublished manuscript. To adapt a line from Australia’s latest PM, this is comedy that respects the public’s intelligence.
Randy is an original beast, and not because he’s a non-conformist felt puppet with a sandpaper wit. (And also a liking for colourful language that earns the show an M rating. Not all puppets are for kids.) His entry in the Melbourne Fringe guide alone is funnier than most of the comedians around. He’s made quite the habit of exploring unique and not-so-fluffy comedy territory in past shows such as Randy is Sober, and his collaboration with skinny man Sammy J has delivered some musical comedy gems.
Randy’s novel Walking to Skye, is a tale of a man retracing a journey of his grandfather, and having an existential crisis along the way. However, to help us appreciate the novel, it’s useful to first make some remarks on what makes a good protagonist.
And if you want to know more about this, you could start to think about the works of Ernest Hemmingway. Yet, to appreciate his output, it helps to know something of his life, given to us via a potted summary of his adventures and flawed character.
Before we know it, we’re swept up in observations on how the greatness of art can overcome the manifest flaws of its creator. Ruminations follow on how some personal quirks don’t deserve to be ridiculed on reality TV, while others, such as rampant hipster superficiality, are aped unchallenged.
All the while, as Randy manically postures, ponders aloud, or provokes, he keeps his audience laughing, with something for everyone, not something that’s been done by everyone. I particularly enjoyed that his is a show with ideas and considered opinions. This may be a reference to a TED talk, a quote from Alain De Botton, comparison of a Buddhist upbringing with a Christian one, or how social media usage prioritises shallow contact with more people, rather than substantial connections with fewer.
Those who are fans of Randy’s ability to guide seemingly ordinary situations into feverish places will get what they hoped for. I find good laughs hard to come by, and laughing out loud a few times was the icing on the cake for this thoroughly appealing show. With so much happening, I would so love to see the script.
Unfortunately for you, dear reader, you’ll not be able to smash Randy’s humour into your face as the season has finished. Maybe you’ll get a chance to see some of the content another time. Perhaps Randy will give a course at the School of Life in the near future? If Randy Writes a Novel returns, I’m happy to supply a pull quote for the programme, “Come for the dick jokes, stay for the cultural literacy.”
Melbourne Fringe: Randy Writes a Novel
The Ballroom – Lithuanian Club, 44 Errol Street, North Melbourne
Performance: Friday 25 September 2015
Season: 18 – 25 September 2015
For more information, visit: www.feltface.com for details.
Review: Jason Whyte