MICF – Sam Campbell: The Trough | Melbourne comedy festival review by Steve Bennett
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MICF – Sam Campbell: The Trough

Melbourne comedy festival review by Steve Bennett

Sam Campbell has always been fizzing with oddball ideas, but has tended to sabotage himself, often because of a massive blind spot when it came to loose, self-indulgent routines that fail to fire.

Well, with The Trough, he has conquered those shortcomings, with an hour that zips by in a gambolling, grinning parade of insanity. Sure, some ideas are funnier to him than to us, but the pace is mostly such that nothing lingers, and his strike rate is high.

He defines himself from the off, playing doctored footage of the horrors of watching a Dave Hughes routine. In case you were in any doubt, this surreal weirdo is about as far from relatable old Hughesy as you can get.

When Campbell arrives on stage, it’s in a romper suit with wieners for fingers – and also coming out of his headgear – smirking inanely. As well he might, given the onslaught of stupidity he knows is about to happen. ‘I’ve got a serious case of the wackadoos,’ he tells us at one point… no kidding; even though kidding is what he relentlessly does.

Dumb props, quirky one-liners, performance trickery and super-creative audio-visual elements illuminate the bizarre hypothetical situations he outlines. Some will hit you right on the funny bone, whether it’s the terrifying creation Brangus – a misshapen stand-up comedian who appears to have no skin – or a preposterous bit of audience participation that involves bowing respectfully to photographs of apes, as if we are in some transcendental cult.  

With this scene, and a couple of others (notably the act-out involving multiple Terrys) Campbell does push the repetition too far. But by then, he’s earned our trust, and we wouldn’t want to throw shade on his fun. He jokes that he might be autistic but has never been tested - that  might explain a lot. 

His enthusiasm for his crackpot ideas goes viral. He’s taking clear, simple pleasure in all this tomfoolery, and so do we. There’s one moment when the show looks in danger of getting serious, tackling the alpha-masculinity from which Campbell’s infantile mucking about is so far removed. But in the end, it’s treated like just another excuse for an unpredictable twist of insanity. And that’s reason enough.

Review date: 19 Apr 2018
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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