Luke Whitby: Was it a Cat I Saw
Show type: Melbourne 2008
Was It a Cat I Saw is a palindrome. Meaning the letters read the same forwards and backwards.
An anagram is the re-arrangement of the letters in a sentence to spell another sentence. This show is about palindromes and anagrams.
Luke Whitby is a very uneasy performer. His nerves force him to splutter out whole sentences comprising only the words ‘you really, like, you know, pretty much, kind of thing…’ I tried to keep tally, but got repetitive strain injury.
This uncertain delivery causes a lot of confusion. From the very get-go he babbles on about this being a ‘fresh start’ and ‘clean slate’ without quite explaining what the hell he’s on about – after all we’re midway through the festival in the fourth month of the year. What is this fresh start? Aside from a clumsy way into some material, that is.
You would normally ascribe these stage jitters to a rookie’s inexperience, but Whitby’s been performing stand-up for seven years; yet he still often struggles to string a sentence together under pressure.
In fairness, it’s mainly the linking material and the conversational aspect of the set he struggles with, not sure how to get from one routine to the next he just prattles on until he stumbles on the way in.
Pretty much everything outside of his core subjects of anagrams and palindromes is a dud. He starts with some low-level knob gags, does a bit about Star Wars (the pay-off is how Hans Solo could be a euphemism for masturbation) and moans about his day job as a call centre worker, trying to smuggle swear words into his conversations with customers to alleviate the boredom. A lot of this material has three punchlines – indicating either that he’s too rigidly sticking to comedy’s ‘rule of three’, or that he can’t decide which of the lines is any good, so hedges his bets and hopes they add up to at least one good laugh.
The main thrust of his show is anagrams. ‘If you don’t know what an anagram is, let me bring you up to speed…’ he helpfully says – making you wonder just what sort of idiots he is aiming his material at. People who don’t even know what an anagram is… yet still choose to come to an hour all about them?
Although they have long been a staple of humour magazines and columns, anagrams can still be entertaining. ‘Paris Hilton, A Simple Life’ for instance, becomes ‘A Little Ho Is Pimpin’ Herself’. That dropped ‘G’ being a clue to the contrivance of these games, which Whitby is happy to acknowledge.
But despite their limitations, there is fun to be had with rearranging words. I even started making up my own: An anagram of ‘Luke Whitby, comedian’ turns out to be: ‘Me, I had no wit. Be lucky!’
That’s a trifle unfair, as Whitby does have a few good lines – even if his delivery of them is shocking. He has fun with the weird phrases you end up with when you create the anagrams, and further releases his inner nerd with a brief history of palindromes and running down some of his favourite long words.
But the whole show is infused with a spirit of amateurism and strangeness. From Whitby’s nerves to his decision to include a long, bizarre poem about love – You Are My Godzilla/I Am Your Tokyo – which requires him to raw like a giant lizard every other stanza, you’re never quite sure what you’re witnessing. Sometimes, that weirdness is funny in itself – but you’re never entirely sure whether you’re laughing with Whitby or at him.
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Date of review: Apr 2008