Sam Simmons: Spaghetti For Breakfast | Melbourne International Comedy Festival review by Steve Bennett

Sam Simmons: Spaghetti For Breakfast

Melbourne International Comedy Festival review by Steve Bennett

Sam Simmons has a bugbear about ‘relatable’ comedy – an adjective that’ll never get affixed to his wild, absurdist output.

Yet what is funnier, a winsome everyman talking about how he struggles with supermarket self-service checkouts, or a deranged oddball violently smashing lettuces together in a firestorm of foliage, leaving only the largest leaf behind to wear as some makeshift yamaka?

If you think the first, Simmons is not for you. If your answer’s b), then you’re in luck.

In some ways, Spaghetti For Breakfast is one of this Tobias Funke lookalike’s more accessible shows, despite all the hyper-lunacy. The theme is ‘things that shit me’; a phrase that pops up every few moments on the relentless backing track that keeps the wild proceedings to some sort of schedule, while adding an extra layer of gags. With that mantra each moment of madness is rooted back in an everyday irritant that has driven him to insanity – from his first taste of an olive to tangled extension cables.

Actually that is a misdirection. The true theme is how Simmons came to be this weird in the first place, and to explain he includes a couple of troubling incidents from his childhood, even though he’s not entirely comfortable exposing aspects of his true personality. No wonder, then, he quickly retreats back into his fast-paced roller-coaster of wackiness, tightly cramming oddball comic ideas into his allotted hour with props, song snippets and strange physicality.

It’s nowhere near as random as it might first seem: Throwaway gags turn out to be crucial set-ups for later jokes; items used in sight gags have resonance in the real-life sections, and even that olive proves to be a significant metaphor for his work.

He has – indeed needs – a rock-solid belief that all this is hysterical, and it most often is. But he also has concerns that we are not fully on board, which manifest themselves in three ways. The most explicit is the pre-recorded heckler, voiced by Josie Long, urging him to be more mainstream and adopt the commercially successful jeans-and-T-shirt approach; a second is to explicitly comment on his routines ‘bit weird isn’t it?’ or ‘this bit goes for ages…’ , a gag which wears thin with too much repetition; and the third is to complain that we are a lukewarm or tepid crowd, which may be true, but being told as much doesn’t help us.

The truth is that he presents such a quickfire series of events, the brain is torn between the instant hilarity of the incongruous imagery, and trying to process what – if anything – it might mean. That’s no criticism, in fact the contrary, it’s testament to the richness of his tightly woven comic tapestry that there’s so much to absorb in what superficially seems like meaningless flim-flam. It’s not just weird, it’s wonderful too.

Review date: 1 Apr 2015
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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