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DROLL SELF-MOCKERY AND DRY WIT

Print Version

NZ International Comedy Festival
TOM FURNISS in THE DIARY OF GORDON LEAF-COOPER


at Cavern Club, 22 Allen St, Wellington
From 7 May 2013 to 11 May 2013

Reviewed by Lucy O'Connor, 8 May 2013


Kudos to Tom, he was the first comedian to start on time. I like people who are on time. It says a lot about their character.

He is introduced and runs down the middle of audience, donning a bright orange turtle neck and what we learn are women's jeans. He is reminiscent of my own father when he was a young gun: dark hair, a smooth moustache and killer style... For the 70s. He says it's a tough life when dogs are more fashionable than him. With this outfit, I definitely disagree. It is a good visual start but his Post-It note jokes are Post-It nots. Luckily, I appreciate comical lameness as exposed in my last sentence.

Tom embarks on a journey to tell us the tale of Gordon Leaf-Cooper through a diary he discovered while scrounging through a Whakatane op-shop. The snippets are bizarre and it is obvious Gordon has a strange outlook on the more mundane moments in life. What a lucky find for a resourceful comedian!

We learn how much research Tom has done for the show having returned to the local op-shop, the shoe shop and having stalked his ex-girlfriends old lover on Facebook. From these studious excursions, we gain extra insight into Gordon's life and Tom's mental dispositions.

The raw material is all there. Tom takes moments to step out of the diary and into real life parallels within his own experience. He seems comfortable on stage and his droll self-mockery and dry wit make him an accessible comedian.

For some reason however, the audience just doesn't buy it. No one is forthcoming with genuine supportive laughter. Is it because it's cold or because we are nervous to let the raucous loose while underground? Even when members of the audience are asked a direct question, the replies are stiff and tell-tale that they would rather tweeze their pubic hair than answer.

Yes, the questions are about love but this proves that this audience are the sit back and be entertained type, as opposed to the get involved and exposed variety. It is a shame. Though I myself do not offer anything, I ease my guilt by putting it down to being part of the human species and suffering from like psychological tendencies in group situations. 

I put the lack of enthusiasm for Tom's material down to what we are told early on in the show: that some stories from the diary are embellished and some made up entirely. This leaves us in a rut. We all want the illusion that this kid is weird and not just a more bizarre character in Tom's imagination. This childish desire is quashed and I am a bit heartbroken. My escapism is a fake-ism. 

For opening night, the overall flow of the show is not smooth and I think Tom is a bit disappointed. As I said, the elements are all there: the professions and the props; the parallels and Phil Collins. It does feel disjointed however and I put it down to the order of presentation. We are told titbits of information and offered visual representations after what seems a story too late and this leaves an unpolished taste in our mouths. And I cleaned my teeth before the show.

With work on fine tuning the order and the transitions, the show will be brilliant. With four to go I have no doubt the finale will live up to the hype of this Billy T nominee. I've got your back, Tom. And not just 'cause you look like my Dad.
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