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Over It: Death, Anorexia and Other Funny Things

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

Until he was talked out of it, Dave Chawner wanted to call this show ‘taboo or not taboo, that is the question’ since its twin subject matter of bereavement and anorexia is not normally considered the stuff of comedy, at least in the mainstream.

There have, of course, been a spate of Edinburgh shows about deceased parents, giving an emotional pivot to stand-ups talking about their formative years. Robyn Perkins’ story is significantly different, however, as she’s only 32 – and it was her partner who died.

This doesn’t come as a huge surprise, given the title of the show, although her set is structured as though it should be. For the first half it pootles along as she talks about her misadventures in relationships... until she drops the bombshell.

Up to this point, it’s a fairly straightforward – pedestrian even – amble through sex gags and embarrassing one-night stands that offers little of interest, despite her engagingly chatty delivery.

But once she’s broken her big news, the set necessarily takes a more distinctive turn as she opens up about her personal response to grief, and the steps she went through that don’t match the received wisdom. Some of the anecdotes could be told a little more adeptly, but she explores her unusual, heart-rending experience with honesty and wit.

It’s unlikely to be laugh-a-minute stuff – that would seem disrespectful to say the least – but the exploration of her emotions is interesting, as they are not always what you might expect. There’s probably a smoother way to tell the story, but it’s not hard to imagine this scenario as the basis for a heart-rending Hollywood comedy-drama.

In the second half, Chawner opens up about his anguish, which manifested itself as anorexia – an unusual condition for a straight male to have. However he definitely plays it for gags more than soul-bearing.

That means lines can come across as quite glib, with any mention of food, even metaphorically in phrases such as ‘you say potato...’ switched into a punchline about his diet. You might even call them feedlines, if that were not inappropriate.

Likewise there are some ‘my friend’s so fat that...’ set-ups that fit an old if proven format; although they are sharp, as Chawner can crack a one-liner. Also a lot of his jokes are about how eating disorders are not obvious joking matter, contradictory as that is.

Gag-heavy can never be a tough criticism in a comedy review, but Chawner might benefit from the confidence that his story is involving enough that the audience would be happy to hear it without a quip every 20 seconds as he tells of of how his dysmorphia originated when he equated being skinny with getting the girls. As it is, that starts a narrative that is never properly embraced, more’s the pity.

Review date: 6 Aug 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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