Zoe Coombs Marr – Dave: The Opener | Melbourne International Comedy Festival review
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Zoe Coombs Marr – Dave: The Opener

Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

A few years ago, it seemed the world might have seen the back of the sexist, hack male comedians making the same old ‘punching down’ jokes to an increasingly uninterested audience. But they are back, surfing a tsunami of ‘cancel culture’ backlash to top the podcast charts and multi-million-dollar Netflix deals.

So it’s a timely return from Dave, Zoe Coombs Marr’s parody of the desperate, out-of-touch straight male stand-up obsessing about the battle of the sexes and forever unable to find the clitoris. He’s especially vexed by the grief Dave Chappelle got for the misogynistic, transphobic sentiments in his last special The Closer – hence this show’s title – bleating that it’s evidence ‘you can’t say anything any more’. ‘Comedy needs me,’ Dave (the fictional one) asserts to explain his comeback.

Dave’s absence for the past six years is explained by him being in a coma, so he comes straight out the gate with some hot takes on Donald Trump being so orange, wonders if ‘planking’ is still a thing, and hilariously misunderstanding what’s been going on with #MeToo.

Lest Dave be misunderstood, Coombs Marr puts him in context with a ‘pre-show chat’ that also foreshadows the precise way her creation will spiral out of control and blame the audience. She also comments on her predilection for over-complicated meta-narratives – and wouldn’t you know it, but this turns out as part of the over-complicated meta-narrative itself. 

By this point in Dave’s lifecycle, the relationship between creator and character is akin to that between ventriloquist and puppet. Coombs Marr’s blurring of the lines and constant reminder of the conceit she’s asking us to believe is certainly similar to Nina Conti’s performances with Monkey – though even a wild primate is less obsessed with his dick than Dave is.

His dumb stand-up descends into a very absurd, intense diatribe about going for a pee with an extendable penis with a stopper which, I suppose, shows the same understanding of the subject that Chappelle demonstrates with his transgender bit. But it is baffling, even before it spins into the messy time spiral that causes Dave to fall apart so spectacularly, so grossly, and so hilariously.

The very notion of Dave similarly falls apart, with the character commenting on the inconsistencies in his personality and trying to figure out which views are his and which come from his liberal creator. It’s a disorderly breakdown with Coombs Marr’s committed, intense performance papering over many a crack – even though the structural foundations of the show are robust. 

Yet The Opener is billed as a ‘fiasco’, so you can’t feel short-changed. And when the show does trip up, it’s because of too much ambition, rather than too little, and we’re left with plenty of food for thought when Dave finally departs. We may have seen the last of him, but we surely haven’t seen the last of his kind…

• Zoe Coombs Marr’s Dave: The Opener is on at the Arts Centre Melbourne at 7.45pm until April 23 and 6.45pm on April 24.

Review date: 19 Apr 2022
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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