Nicholas Sun @ Club 199
9:30pm, Wed 15 Mar 2006
Nick Sun was a revelation at the Fringe Benefit: I thought his self-deprecating style was great, and immediately slotted this show into The Schedule. And now here I was, upstairs in Club 199, with maybe a dozen other punters, willing Nick on to unleash his comedic force. Waiting to be entertained, to be guided on a journey of comfortable mirth.
…this was not that kind of show.
This is, quite frankly, astonishingly difficult to write about. Everything that I instinctively want to commit to this post makes it seem like Sun is the duddest of the duds, the most painful comic that I've been witness to - but that's so far from the truth.
First up, the content… he plays the burnt-out standup character with aplomb, draws heavily on his Adelaide and UK experiences (backpacker hostel stories, handing out flyers in the Mall, heckles from bums), and leverages his asian appearance to get some laughs from the four asian pre-paids in the front tables of the Club. But he's at his best when making fun of himself - responding to audience silence with "I'm not actually a comic, I'm a motivational speaker", and managing expectations by reminding us "fuck it - it's seven bucks".
Style-wise, there's a few obvious Bill Hicks-isms - the "waffle waitress" is transformed into a taxi driver, the talking to himself onstage. There's a lot of pregnant pauses that are as much the audience's doing as his, but you get the feeling that Sun doesn't mind that at all. He's not afraid to admit a mistake, and showed a willingness to back out of jokes not going anywhere.
Perhaps I just found it easy to identify with him. Sun claims that he's not anti-social, just pro-solitude (just like me). Also like me, he's a pessimist… "there's only so many times you can be raped by hope before you realise you're in an abusive relationship." Uh, maybe we're not that similar after all. But some tracts of dialogue are so full of longing, of desperation, of lonely melancholy, that they almost invoke genuine pity - but then the laughs kick in, and the pity is pushed to the back of your brain in bewilderment.
Highlights? His (half-a-star) review of his 'Tiser review was full of honest hatred and disgust; starting off reasonably gentle, it rapidly descends into a vicious skull-fucking tirade that was both shocking and gut-bustingly funny. And it's long scripted diatribes such as this that are Sun's forte; his use of language, his careful placement of words, and the menace behind them is, frankly, without equal.
Finally, about 40 minutes in, he crouches - literally hiding from the audience - behind the DJ's desk and plays a couple of minutes of a recording by another comedian. Then he starts playing the theme from Twin Peaks, and it's beautiful; it suits the melancholy to which he clutches perfectly. The final twenty minutes are a confronting mix of noise from the DJ desk mixed with Sun's descent into complete self-annihilation. He continues hiding from the audience behind the desk, breathing into the feedback-treated mike, occasionally begging the audience to leave, reminding us that our problems are still waiting to be faced; unsure, and terribly uncomfortable, the audience eventually wanders out of Club 199 into the misting rain.
In short, Nick Sun is a comic genius… no, that's disingenuous. He's my comic hero.