Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Comedy Fest review: Stevl Shefn and his Translator Fatima


I've always loved Jerry Seinfeld's description of the final episodes of his long-running TV series as less the kind of all-star high-five you might expect and more the feeling you get when you're standing at a public urinal and notice your untied shoelace lying in a suspicious pool of liquid on the floor. This pretty much sums up a lot of comedy.

Not that I expect fireworks from every show I see, but when you're living on the razor's edge like I am you just ain't got time for people dragging their feet. Get to the punchline, punk! Well, not really, but I was a bit concerned when I got my head around Stevl Shefn's shtick: he performs a stand-up routine in an invented language while his burqa-clad assistant provides translations. There's potential for great comedy here – I was expecting the disjunction between Stevl's physical performance and the deadpan Fatima's interpretation to generate laughs, especially when his routine heads towards the perverse territory of adult video stores, hermaphrodites and animal sex. That didn't quite happen for me (the laughs, not the animal sex), though I'm not sure why. It just seemed that a pretty middling stand-up routine was being stretched to double the length by requiring every joke to be presented twice, first in unintelligible form and then in English.

It's been highly praised by quite a few comedy aficionados I know, though, and some of the routines (especially his dialogue with a vacuum-cleaner) have been big hits with them. I'll give that credit and suggest that this may have to be one you decide on for yourself.

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