Sam Simmons: The Sex And Science Of Boredom

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

Sam Simmons is a genius. A warped, unconventional, slightly disturbing genius, but a genius all the same.

He’s reminiscent of Harry Hill – a resemblance that goes deeper than the bald head and thick-rimmed glasses – with a dash of Mighty Boosh and a huge dollop of something that is unmistakably his own.

The show is fragmented and illogical, snatches of thoughts and ideas competing for space against a multilayered soundscape. Yet while there’s not much of a thread, beyond a vague concept of boredom, this is not just weirdness for weirdness’s sake. There are great lines and inspired ideas underpinning the oddness, a twisted internal logic holding it together and making the experience so much more than the sum of its disparate parts. Recurring themes such as his implacable hatred for ducks or a talking armchair that narrates the proceedings help the consistency, too

The logic has quite a tenuous hold, at times, though. Simmons philosophy is that if it’s funny, do it – and try to work out a reason why later. Thus he puts bread on his feet for a while (is that why they’re called loafers?), decides to air an instructional film about inflatable pool safety, or plays an imaginary game of ping-pong. It’s a bizarre, post-modern variety show all of his own.

There’s a good way of doing such surrealism, and a bad, lazy way. Simmons is definitely in the first camp, with a rare skill of remaining funny, not self-indulgent. There are also some exquisite one-liners that pepper the mix, gags you’ll want to quote for weeks afterwards, and proving that he can actually write jokes. The oddness isn’t a substitute for wit.

Minute-long information breaks also interrupt what we must loosely call the flow of the show, again packing lots of quick slices of clever stupidity into quick succession. There’s so much packed into this hour, and it’s all so far off the beaten path, that it comes as no surprise that the strike rate isn’t 100 per cent. It’s still remarkably high, however, and the sheer volume of jokes and oddness coming relentlessly at you means you’re never too far from a laugh.

Mostly, all this nonsense is performed with a deadly earnestness, which only makes it all the funnier. But occasionally he’ll allow himself a sly sideways smile at the audience, a crucial gesture that humanises the strangeness, and lets the audience know he’s in on the joke too. There’s a subtlety in the performance that means he can raise titters just by phrasing a perfectly normal sentence slightly wrong. Now that’s a sign of comic talent.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Melbourne, April 2007

Review date: 1 Jan 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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