Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Comedy Fest review: Jamie Kilstein - Revenge of the Serfs


US comic Jamie Kilstein probably won't be appearing on Good News Week. Or The 7pm Project. Or anything approaching a commercial radio show. It's not particulary revelatory to suggest that the stuff we see on TV or hear on radio is quite astoundingly reactionary, and that Australian comedy is perhaps the most conservative of art forms we have. Kilstein is pretty much the opposite of all that.

Not that his comedy is necessarily controversial: really, it's very familiar. If you imagine one of those hyped-up dudes you met in first-year uni who would get into long and breathless rants about how Chomsky's writings on East Timor were bang on the money, man, even though he hadn't read any Chomsky and thought East Timor was a person rather than a place – well, imagine that guy ten years later if he hadn't shelved his politics and taken a job in advertising, and you've got Kilstein. But while that might sound like I've just smeared a portrait of a really, really annoying man, Kilstein turns out to have transcended his undergrad self-righteousness without losing sight of his politics. In fact, his saving grace is the way he satirises himself as a youth – he admits that that Chomsky example was him, and by the show's end realises what a deeply irritating wanker he must have been as a teen.

The topics he tackles are the sort a lot of lefty US comedians frequently cover – evangelical Christians, anti-abortion lobbies, the War on Terror, the fascists running the States. This year he's making a point of criticising the centre left, too, and does kick off with a few digs at Obama. That he makes that stuff honestly funny is more surprising than you'd think, perhaps precisely because we've heard it all before.

It's likely the energy with which he performs that makes it work so well. When he really gets fired up his tirades begin to accelerate until he's jumping on the spot and speaking without spaces between his words and releasing an overpowering flow of verbally inventive invective sans relief. It can get too much – you want him to slow down so you can have a second to even get the jokes he's making – but that passion is also what keeps you involved on a visceral level. It's a rollercoaster hour I can heartily (and ideologically) endorse.

No comments: