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Dave Thornton: I Wanna Be Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee died in his early 30s a film star, martial arts expert, respected director, author and philosopher. Dave Thornton is in his early 30s and none of those things. He has performed in Montreal, New York and Edinburgh though – so that’s a start...
Dave Thornton: I Wanna Be Bruce Lee
I’ve never been bored in quite such an entertaining way as spending an hour with Dave Thornton.
The man’s a comic natural, confident, quick-witted and charismatic – yet he applies his considerable talents to such broad ideas that leave him with little original to say, however winningly he says it.
I Wanna Be Bruce Lee follows the stock format that just about every middle-class male stand-up does at one point or another. It’s the ‘I’ve just hit and here I am arsing around as a modestly-successful comedian, I really haven’t achieved as much in my life as my dad/Jesus/iconic celebrity did at the same age…’
That formula’s given rise to shows good, bad and indifferent – and Thornton (31 and comparing himself to the martial arts hero who died at 32) lands squarely in the final category. There are predictable quips here about tofu tasting bland, about Julia Gillard’s strange speech inflections (old George Bush jokes recycled?), about encountering naked men in gym changing rooms, about spending weekends in Bunnings – all the usual suspects.
If you’ve limited exposure to live comedy, this would all appear fresh and entertaining, yet it’s all fished from the same pool countless comics have already dipped their rod into. Such comedy-by-numbers means he’s yet another a white suburbanite comic who ‘ironically’ uses hip-hop street slang, such as referring himself as ‘the D-Train’ or who immediately reaches for the knee-jerk ingredients of latte and cous cous when he wants to evoke comfortable pretentiousness. There’s not much thinking beyond the obvious.
Yet he’s so damn likeable, that however much you hold this lack of inspiration against him, he still comes out as enjoyable, if only on a performance level alone.
There are hidden depths to him, I’m sure. Last year’s show A Different Type Of Normal hinted at it; and even here, in a spontaneous bit of audience interaction, he reveals an acute social awareness. When he asks if anyone’s a vegetarian, one bloke volunteers, and is instantly jeered by his friends, causing him to slink back into his shell. Thornton address it brilliantly well, mocking the ‘must conform’ mentality of Aussie mates and offering some subtle support to the veggo without riling the wider group. It’s a brief moment in the show, but demonstrates Thornton’s sharp comic sensibilities, innate audience empathy and acute social consciousness all in one go.
I wish he’d tap into that and produce the more ambitious show of which he’s surely capable, without losing his accessible appeal. Instead, this offering gave the lively Saturday-night crowd the laugh fix they came for, without threatening to put a single new idea in their heads.
Thornton’s king of what he does, but as a certain martial arts master said: ‘There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.’ Wise words, Mr Lee, wise words…
Reviewed at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, April 2011
|Date of live review: Sunday 1st Jan, '12|
Review by Steve Bennett
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