Galway Comedy Carnival: Red Bastard etc
© Jeffrey Bernhaut
Galway Comedy Carnival director Kevin Healy likens his audiences to the swans that are a big fixture of his home town. ‘I’m trying to feed them the stuff that’s good for them,’ he says. ‘Even if they really just want the white bread.’
Domineering and twisted physical comic Red Bastard is about as far from the white-bread observational comedians as you can get – and a bold choice to open one of the big, mainstream Spiegeltent gigs. Indeed many didn’t know what to make of this bizarre man in tight red bodysuit and exaggerated buttocks. And when it came to his bullying brand of audience participation, they looked on in bemused detachment at an experience designed to be more immersive than they were prepared to invest in.
This despite the devilish creation being most insistent on getting the crowd to embrace the chaos, switching seats or making big physical gestures. He’s clearly in the great tradition of the Lords Of Misrule, turning conventional, ordered social behaviour on its head – and the fact that is a bit uncomfortable is what gives his unforgettable performance its potency.
And what he did in this 20-minute set is tame compared to what he can manipulate over the hour of his full show, should any of tonight’s unwitting audience been prepared to take that plunge.
Compere Andrew Stanley did a fine job at establishing normality both before and after this WTF? set. He’s a skilled host with an affable gift of the gab and an ability to conjure up witty phrases on the fly as he ribs folk about their relationship status. Plus he skilfully managed the atmosphere of a gig around any possible turbulence the diverse styles could have generated.
Mr Bastard was followed with a second dose of Glenn Wool, following his impressive appearance in the Mid-Festival gala the night before. He served up some of the same material, given there was most probably no audience overlap, but also some that was new, including a great take on the well-mocked topic of the Catholic church. There’s a showmanship to his delivery that’s compelling, married to content that’s as meaningful as it is funny.
A whole different energy from David McSavage, sitting strumming his guitar as he mused both absent-mindedly and with an inner anger, an unusual combination. His fury at ill-mannered audience members was genuine – and supported loudly by those who had to sit near them – while his jealousy-fuelled swipes at local hero Tommy Tiernan had more of a sense of slaughtering a sacred cow just because…
McSavage’s precision-aimed jibes are just a nuance away from malice, and that uncertainty – combined with the air that he hates himself as much as any of his targets – makes for a compelling, if slightly ramshackle, performance.
Reginald D. Hunter admitted to suffering the effects of the previous night which, combined with his usual laid-back style, gave the impression that he was phoning his set in to some extent. Of course his imposing presence goes a long way - but not quite enough to cover some dubious leaps in logic. For example, him pondering what would have happened to Oscar Pistorius in the legal process had he been black could possibly have been answered with just two letters: O and J.
The set’s a mix of good lines and cod-philosophising that exists just to set up something deliberately provocative. He especially likes to handle hot potatoes, and it’s sometimes not clear what the point is other than to say something inappropriate – renaming rape ‘the vicious hug’, for example, is sure to land him in trouble for a joke that doesn’t seem worth it.
Compared to Tommy Tiernan’s barnstorming headlining set the previous night, Hunter couldn’t help but seem underpowered.
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TV station apologies for Sept 11 joke09/10/2015
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