Carl-Einar Hackner: Swedish Meatballs

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

More oddball than meatball, Sweden’s Carl-Einar Hackner is an antidote to the more cerebral comics on offer this festival, with a cavalcade of extravagantly stupid set-pieces, so increasingly ridiculous as to eventually melt the sternest heart.

You may have seen him working the Town Hall queues with his aging Euro-rocker look and silly flying-yogi suit, just one of dozens of ludicrously elaborate props he somehow got past customs. That’s one episode of Border Security that’s just crying out to be aired.

A self-described ‘bell-bottomed buffoon’, the silly Scandanavian has a birdcage full of twittering sidekicks, an escapologist dog called Houndini, a didgeridoo down his trousers, some Ikea furniture (not being one to let a Swedish stereotype go untapped) as well as more familiar tools of the trade as a guitar, card tricks and vanishing bottles.

A former member of the La Clique circus-variety-burlesque troupe, Hackner is part old-fashioned prop comic, part even more old-fashioned vaudevillian, for whom nothing ever goes right. As all around him, chaos erupts, he tries to hide his panic behind showbiz razzle-dazzle, grinning desperately and maniacally and making his fey little magic hand gestures. The pathos is all rather touching, while the big laughs come from the epic fails.

Some of his set pieces are new twists on old tricks. The brilliantly stupid ‘bandana’ routine is all over YouTube, as well as featuring in his last festival show here; and putting ‘talking’ masks over unsuspecting audience participants’ mouths is a staple for ventriloquists everywhere who are bored with their usual mannequins. But even so, no one does this quite like he does – with the possible exception of Tommy Cooper.

The show’s a little sluggish getting started, and some of the verbal comedy and low-key tricks don’t do justice to his excessive best, but he certainly knows how to build up the spectacle until we reach the outrageous, bloody finale. It’s not sophisticated stuff, but makes you laugh on a more primal level. Bottom line: Han är mycket rolig (he’s very funny)

Reviewed at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, April 2011

Review date: 1 Jan 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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