Michael Bowley – Stories & Exaggerations [FringeTIX]
Michael Bowley @ Rhino Room – Downstairs
6:30pm, Tue 16 Feb 2010
So – the other venues are starting to open up, and this is my first city show outside The Garden. And there’s a pretty decent crowd for the early shows on the first day of the Rhino Room’s Fringe assault, including last year’s Spirit of the Fringe award winners, the Hylands. I wanted to chat with them, say hello & that kind of thing, but they’re the centre of attention, and with just about every person entering the downstairs bar stopping by to say hello I just never had an opening.
It’s a pretty decent crowd that file into the downstairs space of the Rhino Room (or, as Bowley constantly reminds us, “the shop”) – there’s a lot of camaraderie there, and I get the feeling that there’s a lot of local comedy regulars and family present (Bowley himself being a local lad… indeed, Bowley’s brother walks in late and plonks himself in the front row). But, as the lights drop (or rather, go from “on” to “off”), my phone vibrates my ample arse; I pull it out and check the number; I didn’t recognise it, but the first four digits were “8232”. And, back when we had six-digit phone numbers, “232” was the prefix of my hometown, of my parent’s phone number.
Now, my Dad’s just turned 80, and Mum’s not far behind him. So I’m kinda mentally gearing myself up for those phonecalls that I imagine are made when… well, when something bad happens. Of course, I’m not expecting it soon – Dad’s as strong as an arthritic ox, and Mum’s pottering along same as ever. But those numbers stared out from my phone, and I wondered where this mystery call was coming from… until I switched off the phone.
Can’t have phonecalls interrupting shows, now, can I?
And, having just written all that, I’m disgusted with myself. What kind of human being am I? Preferring to listen to a comedy show rather than, potentially, take a phonecall from the hospital where my own parents lay, possibly taking their final breaths?
At least I switched off the phone with a heavy heart. And the very idea that there was a panicky call being made, someone desperately trying to get through to me, squirrelled into my brain and festered for this entire performance.
So – what was the point of that long diatribe, which seemingly achieved nothing except to expose me as a shallow excuse for a human being? Well, despite this gnawing little voice at the back of my head, Michael Bowley made me laugh. A lot.
Whether it was the indignant bitterness of the meltdown of his relationship with his girlfriend, the tail-between-his-legs acceptance of his comedic exploits overseas (the retelling of his gig for the Marijuana Party was fantastic), or bizarre stories of drug abuse, Bowley’s affable and non-confrontational style makes him a joy to listen to, laugh with, laugh at. Because it’s not often that you hear a tale that requires wanking onto a windscreen.
Sure, there’s the odd stutter along the way – he has a couple of direction-changing non sequiturs that probably don’t really have the desired effect, jarring rather than easing. But when I chatted with Bowley prior to Stevl Shefn a few days later, he was far more pessimistic about his act than he had any right to be; “I’m sorry,” he said, “I’ve been trying to write a whole new show, and I’m obviously still working out the kinks.”
Bullshit, I say. Bowley is a fine comedian, a perfect destination when you just want some good, honest laughs, and this show delivers.
(After the gig, as you might expect, I turned my phone back on. “2 missed calls”. I hit redial… “FringeTIX office, how may I help you?” Of course – phonecalls from the hometown would be “88232″, not just the single-eight. Phew.)