Dave Campbell @ The Maid
9:30pm, Tue 22 Feb 2011
Despite Dave Campbell being a local lad, I’d never seen him perform his stand-up before; a great title, and intriguing photo, had me fixing one of his handful of dates into The Schedule. After a quick stroll from The Bakehouse, I wind up sitting in the front row of the wide back room at The Maid, coaxing the other patrons forward; Beth rolls up late, and we have a little chat and catch-up. She waxes lyrical about Campbell, raising my expectations…
Campbell takes to the stage, and there is something decidedly… odd about his presentation. With an awkward stage manner – physically uncomfortable and ill-at-ease with himself – he opens up with some amusing family admissions (his parents are siblings, making him his own cousin!) before his material devolves into a collection of mildly entertaining anecdotes.
The problem is that, despite a healthy dose of abstract content, Campbell’s jokes just felt… well, unformed. He’ll fling a non sequitur out there – dinosaurs, or otters, for example – that will raise interest, but then fail to follow through; it’s almost as though the unexpected absurdity of the change in direction is the joke.
And sure, my “quirk” quotient was satisfied in hearing a scrawny, strung-out, rockstar-black-clad chap with disproportionately large boots and belt buckles say “otters” a lot… but when my biggest laugh of the set was the result of seemingly accidental intonations (“What’s the worst thing about supermarkets? …fucking children”), I found it hard to reconcile the one-time child genius with the performer onstage.
Despite a strong finish to the show – a rapid-fire two-minute summation of his entire life – I was left feeling that I was the awkward one… because other people in the audience seemed to be having a hearty chuckle, and I was just not feeling it. And, as I left The Maid, I had the weirdest sensation: I had the sudden thought that, maybe, the jokes being told inside Campbell’s own head were infinitely funnier than the ones we were privy to. And whilst I love that idea, it didn’t make for a good experience for me in the audience.