Dave Gorman's Googlewhack Adventure tour

Note: This review is from 2003

Review by Steve Bennett

Googlewhacking, for those who don't know it, is an esoteric Internet-based word game, the aim of which is to type two words into the web's most popular search engine, and find just one page from the 3.3billion online.

Dave Gorman, for those who don't know him, is an obsessive comic with a tendency to expend immense amounts of energy, money and air miles on ambitious yet utterly pointless challenges inspired.

The two were clearly made for each other.

Not that Dave initially wanted to get involved in any more of the immature escapades that have marked his career so far. He wanted to write a grown-up novel - and even convinced a publisher to advance him the cash to do it.

He was told his website contained a googlewhack, and once he learned what one was, amused himself for a day or so by finding others and passing on the good news to the sites' owners. But it was just a diversionary activity, something to delay the unpleasant task of writing, nothing more.

Months later, a trillions-to-one coincidence brings the subject back to his attention. To explain exactly what would spoil the surprise, and to be honest, you'd be much better advised hearing the story from the horse's mouth.

Needless to say Gorman finds himself visiting the googlewhacks in person, thanks to (a) a hugely irresponsible friend who sets him a challenge he ultimately can't resist, and (b) the consumption of a bottle of tequilla.

Gorman makes much of his reluctance to return to his bad old ways, and to great effect. Comedy generally requires a target, and for Gorman it's his own enthusiasm for such pointless preoccupations that gets him so wonderfully exasperated.

Admittedly, it's possibly a little disingenuous. However reluctantly he started, at some point, he must have at least considered the possibility that he could capitalise on his experiences for a stage show and book - after all, it worked with his previous quest for his namesakes.

But no matter, it still provides a powerful narrative to drive a cracking story, every bit of which, he takes great pains to explain to us, is entirely true. And the point needs making, not only because his escapades are incredible in both sense of the word, but also because the story so often relies on staggering coincidences and unexpected twists to resolve the dramatic tension - twists that most fiction writers would baulk at employing.

But as Gorman says, if he was any good at making stuff up, he'd have just written the damn novel, rather than embarking on such a idiotic and expensive trip across four continents, clocking up scores of flights and tens of thousands of miles.

Even in two hours - which truly zip by - Gorman cannot explain everything that happened to him. The story has a rewarding pattern of peaks and troughs, but there is no mention of some of the anecdotes promised by early publicity, such as the gun-running millionaire who took him to Mexico to buy cocaine. I guess we'll have to wait for the book to come out in January.

What we do get are fundamentalist Christians, fun-loving physicists and one seriously dysfunctional comedian who treats his pointless game with a single-minded seriousness.

Whatever his still-to-be-seen talents as a novelist, Gorman is an undeniably brilliant storyteller. Despite his unusual experiences, he maintains an everyman quality that ensures the audience are quickly on his side, cheering piecharts, booing villains and willing him to complete the futile challenge.

It's quite a positive story, especially for the normally cynical world of comedy, with Gorman relying on the kindness of strangers, and - at least 90 per cent of the time - being rewarded for it, giving the warming message that people are basically decent.

But more than being an uplifting show, it's an entertaining one. The lengths Gorman goes to in his pursuit of his ridiculous aims are always hilarious even if - or probably just because - he seems to hate this self-inflicted torture. At least we can laugh at his pain.

Steve Bennett
Richmond, Surrey, October 5, 2003

PS: Filibustering pterodactyl. Now that should make Chortle a googlewhack, too.

Review date: 1 Jan 2003
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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