European Man 2
European Man @ Arcade Lane – Regent One
8:30pm, Sun 6 Mar 2011
So – we’d heard that Daniel Kitson really doesn’t like latecomers to his shows… and, despite the fact that we didn’t have far to travel, we were still going to be cutting it close getting to Kitson in a timely manner – if European Man 2 started on-time.
Which it didn’t. European Man shambled into the spotlight fifteen minutes late, actually. At which stage my hands were mentally thrown up in the air in a “whatever… shit happens” kinda way.
You know what, though? Even if we had missed out on Kitson’s act, it would have been worth it… because European Man 2 was one of the discoveries of the Fringe.
Not because the European Man – presented by “The Continent of Europe” – has some stellar jokes, though – shit no, his content is diabolically awful. But the complete lack of self-awareness in the character makes his performance completely compelling.
A step back, first: European Man is from Europe, afflicted with a strong nonpartisan accent, and wears jeans and a suit jacket… and long greasy black hair. And a beard. He makes it quite clear that English is not his primary language – and you get the feeling that his jokes have suffered a lot in translation.
For instance: the Man goes on a long trek explaining how there’s more vitamin C in lemons, convincing his housemate Sally Carmichael (just the act of referring to everyone in firstname-lastname format is enough to crack the audience up) that she should consume them, despite the bitterness… when she does so, he breaks out a big shit-eating grin and yells “while I’m enjoying eating my delicious orange!” Joke delivered, he walks the width of the stage, smiling and nodding at the bemused audience in triumph.
That, essentially, is European Man’s humour in a nutshell.
Yes, there’s a bit about dinosaur (specifically, T-Rex) comedians. Yes, there’s a long and winding description of Space Chips. And yes, he talks about his cat (James Pietersen) a lot. And all his jokes are cringingly bad, but the Man’s misguided self-confidence is so powerful that it works.
But the other really memorable bit of the show? Four people sitting in the front row, directly in front of us. A couple of minutes in, they started whispering to each other, a hint of concern in their hisses. Fifteen minutes in, the whispers get more frequent and animated. Eventually, the European Man asks: is there a problem?
“Well… nah,” one bloke replied, “It’s just… when is the burlesque going to start?”
European Man stood stunned for a moment; eventually, a voice came from the back of the room: “the burlesque show’s next door.” Which European Man followed up with “I can strip for you if you like,” and took off his jacket. Which cracked up the entire audience (except the four people in the front row, naturally).
Just in writing this post, I re-lived a lot of European Man 2 in my mind – and had an absolute ball doing so. The European Man is a fantastic comedic character, and – whilst I think a full hour of his awful comedy might be too much (and, after all, this show started late and finished early) – I’d love to see another set soon.
As an extra special bonus, here’s the text from the back of his flyer, full of the precise (but hopelessly missing-the-mark) English that pervades his show:
Imagine if a man from Europe moved to Australia. Well, one did. That man is European Man.
Now he lives in Melbourne with his cat and Sally Carmichael. European Man has a job and catches the train to work!
Last year he did a Festival show. This year he is going to do one.