Perth comedian John Conway hinted at the randomness that was to follow in his support act for Sam Simmons’ latest show, The Precise History of Things.
Conway’s quirky delivery and local knowledge won the audience over quickly enough for them to join him in a sing-along almost immediately, a risky tactic for any support act.
His affection for Perth was clear, albeit affection that perhaps celebrated the worst of our city. In response to the Melbourne dig that Perth is the city that always sleeps, Conway retorts that if you need a midnight snack, there’s always the petrol station. He talks of how it’s hard to take a proper swing at someone with a glass in the small bars so beloved of our Victorian friends.
Sam Simmons’ world as depicted in The Precise History of Things, is quite different. This show, which won the 2011 Adelaide Fringe Festival Best Comedy Award, is built around a series of letters and emails asking Simmons for advice. It’s not traditional stand-up. Simmons bursts into song, lets us hear the voice inside his head and uses a series of props – including the contents of a supermarket trolley – to create a bizarre menu of ideas and images: Toadfish from Neighbours depicted in spilled salsa; Christmas classics sung to the music from Star Wars; lonely pine cones and a life-affirming llama all feature. There’s not a lot of room for improvisation, but the inevitable technical hitches that come with a show of this kind were handled deftly.
Much of the humour is teenage, puerile even. Some of it went a bit too far for me – the repeated groping of a young man from the audience got a laugh, but to me it felt like a cheap one.
But mostly, it is funny. More than once I caught myself laughing at things that would have amused me in the early years of high school, made funnier by their presentation by a man in a flat cap and Super Mario moustache.
And as cruel as Simmons sometimes is to his audience, ultimately he is probably harder on himself. The man who describes himself as looking like a ‘paedophile at a fun run’ doesn’t appear to have anything in the way of a sense of embarrassment.
There was pathos, too, towards the end. Simmons leaves his bizarre menu behind for a moment to ponder on the experience of an elderly war veteran trying to buy a coffee at a well-known chain. Suddenly the fact that the man has to go to three different spots to order, pay and then wait for his drink – which is then delivered with a wooden stick for him to stir it himself – seems as absurd as that Toadfish salsa stain.
Simmons signed off with an invitation to the audience to join him in the pub across the road (“I’m not Wil Anderson. I’ll talk to you.”), and within minutes of leaving the stage, he was behind the downstairs bar at the Astor, signing DVDs for fans. His stage persona might inhabit a ridiculous world, but the real Sam Simmons seems to be much more grounded.
The Astor Theatre presents
THE PRECISE HISTORY OF THINGS
Venue: The Astor Theatre | 659 Beaufort St, Mount Lawley
Date: November 18, 2011
Bookings: BOCS 9484 1133 | bocsticketing.com.au