In It For The Species
Jacques Barrett @ Gelatissimo
8:00pm, Sun 27 Feb 2011
Having chatted with Jacques Barrett at the brutal Ha Ha Comedy Late Show, I’d assured him that I’d get along to his show if I possibly could. And as I scooted into Gelatissimo on this, his last night, he sat at a table at the bottom of the stairs with his money-taking off-sider. He looked despondent, but flashed me a smile as he saw me walk up.
“You made it,” he stated, “just go straight up.” He nodded to the young woman guarding the stairwell. She smiled, nodded, and stepped aside, granting me free passage.
“The fuck I will,” I said. “How much is it?”
Jacques looked back at me wearily. “Ten bucks,” he said.
I gave him a glare and thrust a twenty at the money-handler; “that’s your ticket price,” I said. He shrugged. “Whatever, man. See you up there.”
I emerge upstairs to enter a small crowd – maybe twenty, tops. And when Barrett appeared… well, there was a physical weariness about him. A weight, you could say. And as he looked out into the crowd, I got the sense that he was evaluating us, ascertaining whether or not we were indeed his people.
And that fits in perfectly with the central thread of his show – after all, Jacques wants to save the human race. Some of his methods may seem reasonable straightforward – encourage bogans to stop breeding, and call racists (even his own father) what they are – but his very best laughs come when you sense that his disappointment with humanity becomes almost unbearable.
A case in point: after gently berating some audience members for their expensive attire, Barrett falls back to a tale outlining his culture shock in moving from rural Queensland to Sydney, and the joys of meeting women in clubs – his “dolphin girl” material is fucking brilliant, and manages to contain a couple of big social digs. In fact, just check out this clip… especially the end, because that’s the kind of disappointment that was written all over his face.
But that, to me, is what makes Barrett’s act work – this persistent air of resignation. It’s not a holier-than-thou, better-than-you elitism; it’s a sad acceptance that this is who we are. And even within those depressing boundaries, he still finds comedy gold – in his “bad day” story, where people already think the worst of him, he finds a way to up the ante.
Maybe I’m completely romanticising my view of a naturally dry and laidback performer – but I don’t care. I think Jacques Barrett is fucking brilliant, and I will tell that to anyone and everyone. I even told (a more relaxed looking) Barrett himself at the Fringe Club later that evening; he grinned from ear to ear, assuring me that had been his best show of the season. And that made me happy :)