Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Comedy Fest review: Sam Simmons & David Quirk - The Incident


I mentioned in my last post that I'm not a hat-wearer but I should clarify that I do wear a helmet when I'm on my bicycle or in the bath. That doesn't count as a hat, though, because there's no way in hell you can tilt a bike helmet at a rakish angle without seriously compromising your road safety and I want to make clear that I don't condone that kind of recklessness at all. Also, you might want to wear a helmet to The Incident because it presents a reckonable risk of brain injury.
Sam Simmons is pretty well-known for his postmodern surrealism. I use the S-word here because Simmons is one of the few performers to actively invoke the kinds of uncomfortable sex and violence and subconscious rumblings that make up true surrealism, rather than presenting basic oddness for comic effect (which is sort of the opposite to surrealism in my book). I sling the pomo label at Simmons, too, because he often uses the surreal stuff to ironic effect – not to parody it but to self-consciously undermine its potential for humour.

David Quirk is less familiar but has developed a strong following for his intelligent, bleak and almost existentialist stand-up. His comedy is a bit like the sound of a woodsman pressing his axe to the whirring grindstone outside an isolated cabin at midnight. It's beautiful and faintly terrifying at the same time.

The Incident is a collaboration between the two: a quasi-play that features a setting and a rough narrative and that's about it. A customer in a shop is felt up by the store assistant, and from there the pair embark on a bizarre relationship of loathing and desire and uneasily homoerotic courtship. It's hard to say what the show is about since so much of it seems to tap into non-rational forms of meaning – it's certainly offensive, but also kind of touching in the way it brings to light the troubles men can have making emotionally honest connections with one another.

It's mostly Simmons' show, I think, but it's still an excellent introduction to both comics and if you're already a fan of either you'll get a hair-raising buzz from this one.

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