Dan Willis

Dan Willis

In 2000, inspired by his time as one of the punters’ representatives on the Perrier panel, Dan Willis gave up his job as a computer programmer and took to stand-up. Since then, he’s notched up 12 festivals in addition to his circuit work, including Edinburgh, Melbourne and Adelaide
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© Adam Ethan Crow

Dan Willis: Michael Jackson, World's Greatest Entertainer

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

Just like the rest of us, Dan Willis has heard more than enough cheap Michael Jackson jokes to last a lifetime. But as a diehard fan of the superstar, Willis wanted to pay tribute to his icon with a celebratory show, rather than a cynical one.

Unfortunately, these authentic good intention are squandered in an ill thought-through show that gets distracted by irrelevant Macguffins when simply telling anecdotes about his fandom and stories from Jackson’s career would be the real thriller.

The jumble feels like an early draft of a work in progress, but Willis constantly reminds us he performed this show at the Adelaide Fringe, which was six months ago – so it really ought to be in much better shape by now.

A PowerPoint junkie, this former computer programmer over-uses video, too often showing clips for no real reason, but the main flaw is basing the entire narrative around a convoluted point-based system he dreams up to prove that Jacko is indeed the world’s greatest entertainer, ahead of the likes of Sinatra, Elvis or Madonna.

He doesn’t explain the idea properly at the outset, but the whole device is fatally flawed anyway. Sometimes the chart is factually based, which is a bit dull, and sometimes it’s arbitrary, which could possibly provide the grounding for some ridiculous comic nerdiness, but doesn’t. And there’s no surprise who wins, so if it was intended to add some tension, again that’s a fail. The whole thing smacks of an idea that should have been abandoned a long time ago.

It’s a shame it’s so confused, as there could be plenty to enjoy here. Willis’s crowd work is assured, with one very nice set piece of audience interaction, and when he’s simply regaling us with stories, whether it be the injuries he sustained when ill-advisedly trying to ape MJ’s moves as a teenager, or his encounter with the superfan who once, enviably, got to dance with their shared hero on stage, he proves an affable guide with an authentic enthusiasm for his subject.

However, as a show, Willis needs to go back to basics – as by stripping out all the peripheral nonsense and focussing on what really matters, he could produce a tribute to do Jackson proud.

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Published: 24 Aug 2010

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