I think it’s fair to say that good comedy can be roughly divided into two categories: the familiar, delivered well, and the new and exciting. Simon Taylor’s Funny falls squarely into the former, hitting all the right notes to appeal to a comfortable middle-aged audience. The main strains: the generation gap, the gentle stereotyping of our melting-pot society and a reliance on a self-deprecating ‘beta male’ mentality. Taylor, being a younger comedian, hits that last button pretty hard in this show, and it swings between being kind of charming and almost obnoxiously harmless. Defining oneself as a non-dominant, socially awkward person in comedy is a lot like wearing a waistcoat and pinstriped slacks to a bar that serves cocktails in jars: it seems really cool and funny until you realise everyone else in the room has been doing the same thing a lot longer.
This is really obvious in the centrepiece of the show, coming after jokes about stealth mormons, pubic-hair lucky charms and Australian accents. It’s a lengthy story about chasing a ‘Fringe girlfriend’ that ended up being more poignant than funny through its genuine portrayal of the kind of silly insecurities that plague people every day. Fortunately, it’s not told bitterly and it was peppered with lighter-hearted tangents that saved it from becoming too moody.
None of this is to say that Funny doesn’t live up to its name. Taylor’s delivery is great and no punchline, no matter how predictable, failed to tease a hearty chuckle even from the relatively small Monday night audience I attended with. To my mind, he focuses too much on the traditional build-up-to-punchline construction of his jokes when he really has a talent for a sharp turn at the end of a sentence or a quick one liner inserted into a paragraph. Every one of those felt far more lively and interesting, whipping past and moving on smoothly before the audience catches up a second later. It just works well with Taylor’s clever wordplay and added an occasional sharp point to the slower observational comedy.
Simon Taylor has a way with words and timing that allows him to present a set of familiar comic themes in a way that’s still funny and enjoyable. Should he turn to more experimental or interesting topics in future, he’ll become something really special to see. Until then, Funny is a nice hour of professional comedy.
Review by Morgan Goodman