Simon Keck: Nob Happy Sock

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

It’s a surprisingly theatrical opening for a gig in a tiny room that probably more used to housing cleaning fluid and toilet paper stockpiles than fringe comedy shows. As the audience shuffle in to the glorified cupboard, Simon Keck is suspended lifelessly from the ceiling, a noose around his neck.

But he can’t quite keep up the dramatic pretense, and after a few moments starts quietly mugging the to front rows. It’s a demonstration of his self-confessed compulsion to defuse any serious situation with a joke, however inappropriate – an instinct which has ruined more than a few poignant moments in his life. And does a little collateral damage to the emotional pull of this oddly-named show, too.

The subject matter, his 2008 attempted suicide, could barely be more sombre. But this is comedy, so he guides us through the story with good humour, keen writing and some fine jokes. But while he’s honest about the facts, he’s more cautious about his feelings, which makes it sometimes feel like a third-person narrative, not a first-person one.

That said, there are some cracking anecdotes here, especially a routine about a night of overambitious sex, built on lies, that goes hilariously, painfully wrong. And it’s not the only embarrassment he shares: as a boy he shat himself in the school playground – an incident described with rather too much relish for the poo jokes – because he was too shy to ask for help. The very handicap that would later tip his slow, crawling, suburban misery into a full-blown depression.

With a genuine twist that any screenwriting guru would surely dismiss as too fluky, his suicide turns into a farce – and provides his story with a brilliant tension-busting payoff. And the primeval reaction to any sudden release of a threat is to laugh, which works for both him and the shows.

Despite the seriousness of the content, this is no some earnest awareness-raising exercise (though the inclusion of the Beyond Blue helpline number at the end is germane) but a strong collection of stand-up anecdotes with a driving dramatic undercurrent. More emphasis on the darkness would have made the journey more intense, but there’s no disguising his abilities as a comedy writer here.

Review date: 4 Apr 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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