Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sam Simmons - Meanwhile, Soho Theatre

Since hearing such great things about his Edinburgh show, and watching this properly fascinating, insightful ComComedy interview, it's fair to say I've been pretty excited about the prospect of seeing Australian comic Sam Simmons.

Meanwhile, currently playing at the Soho Theatre, appears to be a mission on Simmons's part to give his audience licence to laugh at the silliest and most surreal things possible - and to feel ok about it. Pine cones dressed up as cowboys, the inherent evilness of ducks, a talking lama, Good King Wenceslas sung to the Star Wars Cantina Band tune - this is joyous, inspired and weird stuff and I loved it.

Some comedy is about shared recognition of the familiar, but Simmons tends to go down the Reeves and Mortimer route of drawing laughs from something genuinely surprising and odd and fun. And the fact that this mixture of child-like silliness and wanking jokes comes with a message attached only makes the show even more appealing to those of us who think that comedy can be the perfect tool with which to say the most important things.

There are so many rules these days, Simmons says in a "I'm mad as hell" finale, that we've lost all innocence and fun, and that's what I reckon he's trying to recreate here - both generally with the whole ethos of the show, and specifically with his show-closing attempt to evoke childhood memories through smashing the Old El Paso taco shells that he used to eat as a kid on his chest. "Confronting" he says, in a Tony Law-style moment of ironic commentary.

In fact, like Law, much of the show is a little trip into Sam Simmons's head, though it's hard to work out whether we should believe what we find there. Does he genuinely not think it's going well tonight, or does saying that just help back up the inner-monologue recordings that reveal Simmons's worries that he's "one step up from a juggler"?

If this all comes across as rather measured, that's only because over-analysing comedy is a favourite past-time of mine, and Simmons's show just begs to be unpacked. But rest assured, the most significant thing about Meanwhile is that it's laugh out loud, heart-warmingly funny. High expectations can be dangerous, sure, but not to be feared in the case of Simmons who, it transpires, is just as funny, inventive and smart as everyone has told me - if slightly more wild-eyed and combative. In a fabulous way.

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