I Am Google
Craig Ricci Shaynak @ Austral Hotel – The Bunka
9:30pm, Mon 12 Mar 2012
I met Craig Ricci Shaynak through Nik Coppin as a result of a late-night San Giorgio feast; at a drunken 3am, he was a friendly and easy-going chap, and I’d promised that I’d see his show sometime (whilst admitting that it hadn’t made my Shortlist). So, with Trevor Crook Plus One leaving us in the right physical location at the right time, we made the snap decision to see I Am Google.
Craig himself was managing the ticketing outside the entrance to The Bunka; he recognised us from that late-night pizza jaunt, and ushered us in gratis. I explained that I had issues with that, and a mild argument ensued when he steadfastly refused to take my money; we finally agreed on payment in the form of beers and discussion about the show… which I had every intention of making good on, but sadly never delivered. And for that, I feel shame – I really do!
We take our packets of cheap Oreo knock-offs from Craig as we walked in (“cookies… otherwise your browser won’t work”) and take our usual position, front-and-centre. After finishing his door duties, Craig strolls onstage, hangs a sign that boldly pronounces “GOOGLE” around his neck, sits at a table and starts answering silent phone calls. “Hello, this is Google… what? Yeah, Paris is the capital of France. Yeah, I’m sure… Bye. Hello, this is Google… Did you mean something else? Look, I’m right ninety percent of the time. Hello, this is Google…”
After a few such calls, his attention is drawn to the audience, and he starts describing what he – as Google – does; he demonstrates the failures of voice search, engages the audience (and some balloons) to create a rendition of Google Maps (including zooming!), and discusses the hidden perils of GMail – “you do know we read all this, right?” His demonstration of Google Translate, though, was fantastic: taking suggested phrases and languages from the audience, his ludicrously over-the-top “accents” always seemed to have humorous hooks in the half-words he slips into the “translation”. I was, quite rightly, mocked for my request for an Esperanto translation of “do a barrel roll”; my Fringe Buddy requested a Braille translation, resulting in
Craig Google lightly squeezing her head with his hands before translating “you’re so pretty… please don’t sue me.”
There’s a brilliant lyrical battle with a CAPTCHA, and Craig happily swaps the sign around his neck to anthropomorphise other Internet players, too: Bing is a creepy Bond villain, Yahoo is a wannabe cool guy desperately conscious of his fading popularity, and Twitter is suffering from a bitter breakup with Google.
It’s handy that I’ve got half-a-clue what – and how – Google (and the rest of our Internet Overlords) operates, because there’s obviously loads of Google-centric jokes, most of which are really quite intelligent and respectful – nothing feels too dumbed down, and there were no real groan-worthy moments (other than the odd terrible pun). But my Fringe Buddy was not the most Internet-centric of people, and she still had a good laugh – and that, I think, speaks strongly of the quality of Craig Ricci Shaynak’s writing and performance.