Last year I saw Reginald D. Hunter as part of the Comedy Festival. His show hinged upon one big giant rape joke he did smack in the middle of his set. I was not impressed. In fact I felt moved to write a piece detailing why/how I thought rape jokes could/should be done.
I did not expect to be seeing Reginald again any time soon. And yet I did. Last night. At Adrienne Truscott’s show. There was a photo of Reginald on stage. As well as photos of Jim Jefferies, Jimmy Carr, Daniel Tosh and a couple of others. They were all dudes who include rape jokes in their material.
Adrienne’s show is what it is. It’s confrontational, it mostly doesn’t take a step back and it’s very funny. It’s also the most important show I’ve seen at the New Zealand Comedy Festival. Last year seemed to be the year of the misogynist, come 2015 and it’s almost as if the programming director has run the other way and granted a right of reply. I applaud them for that. I think every aspiring male comic should sit down, shut the fuck up and watch this show.
As every reviewer will tell you, Adrienne comes out wearing a denim jacket, a wig, high heel shoes and nothing else. Her vagina is on display. Even though this is all through the advertising material, and even though when you hand your ticket to the usher she warns you this show contains nudity, the audience is still shocked. And we are never really allowed a chance to recover from this shock. And I think that’s deliberate. And I also think it’s brilliant.
Adrienne’s delivery mechanism is a slightly folksy tone, a woman who errs into ditzy at times, one who, y’know whatever. But then BAM. We’re confronted with an horrendous fact or statistic about rape. But in a funny way.
These things sound problematic, and they are; but I think Adrienne is serving a purpose, delivering a message. She holds a mirror up to the values she’s encountered: don’t do rape jokes, women shouldn’t dress in mini-skirts or go out drinking if they don’t want to be raped, and incest babies are the only babies you can abort; to show them how ridiculous they are. Throughout the show she completely annihilates traditional expectations of comedy, while at the same time being highly comedic.
But then she has a couple of quirks that I didn’t properly understand. Frequently she punctuates her confronting material with puns. Puns about rape of course, but silly puns nonetheless. And I couldn’t work out the reason for that. Because if it was to balance out the show’s in-your-faceness with some warmth then I feel like it had the reverse effect. The silliness of the puns made the parts where she acted out raping a guy all the more jarring.
She also wears a large blonde wig for the show, and I’m certain it’s not for the reason of the slightly lame sight-gag she pulls at the end, but I couldn’t work it out. It feel disconnected from the rest of the show. That if the show was about confronting and being completely up-front and honest, then why this physical dishonesty? I hung around after the show to ask, but couldn’t find her. Which is probably for the best. In hindsight, I think I would have appeared creepy.
Parts of the material are not structurally unique, there are a number of pull-back and reveals (so to speak), a number of set-up punches etc, but then there are delightful touches of Adrienne; including marvellous sight-gags using her vagina (best prop use of pubic hair I’ve ever seen); some obliterating smack-downs of male comics who have done rape jokes and some deft touches as she senses she’s losing us.
This show is not for everyone, but if you are passionate about comedy then I would highly recommend you go along. You may need some time after to gather your thoughts, but it’s worth it.
5 May – 9 May, Fringe Bar
Adults: $28 ($32 Friday and Saturday)