I felt a bit emotional the morning after David O’Doherty’s MICF show Big Time. Having seen and enjoyed his work before, that’s not what I was expecting. O’Doherty plays on your mind whilst he’s playing musical comedy on his 1986 keyboard, delivering plenty of laughs as he does so.
We begin with what sounds like it could be fairly standard material about social media. A Twitter taunt-cum-discussion with Ed Sheeran gained him 60,000 new followers in a flash, the resultant ripples causing PR types to query O’Doherty’s fee for promoting companies in his tweets.
Disgusted by this invitation to be a phoney, O’Doherty made fake claims about being sponsored by certain products. They had to be uncool, like Windows 95 and the absorbent mats under plastic-wrapped supermarket meat. His favourite product for this purpose doesn’t even have a snappy name: “The birthday cake candles that light up again after you blow them out”. These have the strange history of being a spinoff of the self-relighting fuses developed to ensure effectiveness of airborne World War I bombs.
With O’Doherty’s (and my) setup out of the way, we learn of O’Doherty’s family connection to bomb making in Ireland during WWI and the Easter Rising. O’Doherty feels his life as a comedian is something of a step down from the importance of his various ancestors. Other modern topics considered are finding the world too complicated, even when all you want to do is buy a sandwich, and a cute song about filling your house with stuff you don’t need.
I think there are two main things about Big Time that got to me. Even though it’s through a comedic lens, O’Doherty admits to times of failings I see in myself; being exhausted by knowledge of various terrible things happening around the world whilst often feeling powerless, being irritable as a result, having difficulty in maintaining a sane perspective on it all.
He also wears the comedy mask with the dramatic one underneath. His comment that machines have already become sentient – it’s because they recognized the state of the world that the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 decided to blow themselves up en masse – is a darkly funny thought to stick in the brain.
However, Big Time is definitely big issues with entertainment. O’Doherty knows when to balance shade with light by deftly steering us towards more silly territory, like waiting for his niece to make a decision in “Leotard World”, when kids in a reading of his childrens’ book really don’t like it, or his song that’s a pre-emptive review of the audience front row.
Whilst we can find it hard work to withstand mean-spirited times, history shows that bright spots can emerge from darkness. In its own gentle way, Big Time encourages us to continue to take an interest in the world beyond our own problems, to not give up hope, to be stubborn like those candles that can be temporarily blown out, but not so easily extinguished. And if you don’t much care for existentialism, just go for the jokes.
Big Time is a well-crafted show that consistently delivered big laughs and deserves to be a big hit at MICF 2017.
David O’Doherty – Big Time
The Forum Theatre, corner Flinders and Russell Streets, Melbourne
Performance: Sunday 2 April 2017 – 6.30pm (preview)
Season continues to 23 April 2017
Information and Bookings: www.comedyfestival.com.au
Image: David O’Doherty (supplied)
Review: Jason Whyte