People say Carl Barron thinks too much. But as he wryly asks: "How much are you supposed to think?"
It's one of many absurd questions in life that clearly torment and amuse the beanpole comic. His latest show, Walking Down the Street, at the Brisbane Powerhouse feels just a little cathartic as he downloads years of Seinfeld-style ‘did ya ever think's and ‘have you ever wondered's from a riotously restless mind.
Barron has traded on his working class roots (the son of a sheep shearer in central Queensland, he moved to the Gold Coast to become a roof tiler) and carefully cultivated a reputation (largely through appearances on the boorish Footy Show) as the laconic, all-Aussie straight man of comedy. In fact, it sells him short.
For an observational comic, Barron delivers quite the theatrical performance. There's an immediate energy as the angular frame bounds onto the stage and tirelessly prowls its dimensions. The comedy is as much about the visual as the aural; he literally throws himself into some jokes, and the beaming, rubbery face contorts for humour even when the line didn't really justify it.
Far from his monotone television appearances, Barron has a cast of quirky characters in his shiny head - from well-mined parents to random street encounters - who appear from nowhere in a possessed voice. And then just as quickly he slips back into the blithe outback drawl to poke fun at some ordinary piece of everyday life.
The audience isn't fooled. The disarmingly ocker outlook on life, and child-like curiosity about the world and its weird and wonderful inhabitants and customs, can't hide a fierce intelligence and clever wit.
It's one thing to point out the absurdities of modern life, it's quite another to make it amusing. Walking Down The Street, in its own heavily grounded, ordinary way, really is very funny. Often sweetly, and occasionally painfully, so.
Barron works over familiar ground in remembering a recognisable Australian childhood and mocking the vagaries of the language and human behaviour. Yet it all seems really fresh, or at least delivered so infectiously it doesn't seem to matter either way.
If you haven't already got tickets you're going to miss out on seeing Barron in Brisbane this year - some 18 performances up until December 23 are completely sold out. Instead, promoters have found him an even bigger theatre in the Lyric to make his return in June (tickets are currently on sale through QTIX). In his own unassuming way, Barron is amassing quite a fan base.
And who knew he could tickle the ivories of a baby grand so competently? Or hold a sweet-tempered tune he wrote about never growing up while strumming perfect chord progressions on his guitar? As if to prove to those of us in the audience who didn't know what a multi-talented, multi-tasking new-age sort of bloke he is (and, perhaps, reinforce the uncanny physical resemblance to that other balding Aussie guitar hero, Paul Kelly).
But then, I never expected to like him so much. Or laugh so hard. A pleasantly surprising performance all round.
A List Entertainment presents
Walking Down The Street
Venue: Powerhouse Theatre
Dates: 1 - 23 Dec 08
Duration: 90mins, no interval