Andrew O’Neill – Alternative
Andrew O’Neill @ Rhino Room – Downstairs
10:15pm, Wed 7 Mar 2012
I’ve loved Andrew O’Neill’s work in the past, both in his own shows and on the many occasions I’ve seen him do guest spots in ensemble gigs. He’s got a friendly, approachable style, he owns his unique presentation traits, and hey – he’s a metalhead. And it’s pretty clear from the very beginning of this packed show this evening that he’s not changed any of the mechanics of his performance one bit – it still feels gloriously scatterbrained, he still leaps between completely disconnected stories via snippets of overheard conversations, and you’ve no idea what’s going to come next.
But something didn’t quite click for me tonight… and unfortunately, I think it was the more substantial chunks of his material. There were some longer gags that relied on a lot of repetition to justify their limp payoff, and one piece in particular – where he took the phrase “like pushing a sausage through a polo mint” and evolved it, eventually reaching a “like stretching an idea” conclusion – felt like a bridge too far for the audience. And some bits seemed to be exercises in performance, rather than humorous content for the punters – the writing-a-letter-to-a-coffee-company bit saw O’Neill miming the writing, folding, and enveloping of a letter of complaint in excruciating detail, before the delivery of said letter to the postbox… where was the payoff in that?
Look, don’t get me wrong – I’d still love to see another Andrew O’Neill gig; his hit-rate entirely justifies that. But tonight, the material he chose to present really didn’t work for me at all… but there was yet another great thing that happened as a result of this show. Post-gig, O’Neill was selling his t-shirts and CDs outside the Rhino Room, and I wound up at the end of a queue behind a bunch of young Adelaide comics. They all purchased their merchandise, leaving the brilliant Demi Lardner struggling to decide what to buy – she only had enough for one item. She looked at me momentarily, conscious that her lack of decision-making was delaying the rest of the line (i.e. me); I chuckled, said “that’s okay, take your time,” and immediately thought better of it.
I tapped Demi on the shoulder, and told her “look – I’ve seen you several times in shows around town, and have never had to pay anything for the privilege. I think you’re the best young comic in Adelaide. You buy whichever item you can afford; I’ll buy the other one.” She looked at me wide-eyed, thanked me, and suddenly I realised what a potentially creepy situation I’d put her in; I waved off her further uncomfortable thanks, shook O’Neill’s hand, paid for my CD and her t-shirt, then walked off into the night… a strange benefactor.
Still… it felt good to give someone some gratitude so directly.