Review: Jonny Potts in Loose

Jonny always does awesome promo shots. Except for one.

Jonny always does awesome promo shots. Except for one.

Last year I reviewed Jonny Potts’ NZ Comedy Fest show: The Delusionaries. In that show, Jonny played three different characters, each was a well constructed person in their own right and it was an excellent show. For Loose – a repeat of his award winning show from this year’s Fringe Fest – Jonny plays himself, but a variation of himself over the last 20 years.

The show’s premise is an interesting one. He’s put an almost theatre-sports like set of restrictions around the construct, he will tell us 20 stories, from 20 years and each story will feature both drinking and Iggy Pop. I wondered if this would hamper the creativity of the show by being so linear, but then it turned out it wasn’t linear at all so creativity ahoy!

He leaps from year to year, starting in 1996 as a high schooler then leaping forward to being a university student, to being a grown up, then back to high school again. It’s a creative, fascinating way to structure a show – it’s sort of the Cloud Atlas of comedy shows.

Throughout the show, it sometimes feels like you’re listening to an author do a reading of his memoirs, as Jonny carefully – sometimes too carefully – likes to draw these evocative images to set the scene of his next ‘bit’. Though it can feel over-scripted at times, Jonny has a sort of charisma and stage presence about him that you’d probably be entertained listening to him reading an order of service at a funeral.

Given the nature of the show, with the huge amount of anecdotes told, it’s not surprising that some are far funnier than others. There are stories that seem to just completely capture the audience and have them laughing throughout, while others might raise a more gentle “heh” out of the crowd. This is not to say that these stories are bad, they’re not. In fact some of the ones with smaller bouts of out and out laughter are my favourites – just that some stories are less laugh-out-loud funny, and more amusing and interesting.

Jonny’s mastery of timing is magnificent. He wrings laughter out of explaining to us what a joke even is. Explain-a-joke is hard to pull off. It’s often the comic’s comedy. But Jonny keeps the audience entertained and amused by his own brand of meta-comedy.

The show is more one-man play than it is stand-up comedy show. But that’s not surprising because that’s Jonny’s style. He’s a remarkably gifted performer – to have put on a 3-character show last year, and then in less than 12 months put together a show that is him doing more conventional stand-up is some feat. I’m not sure there are many local comics who could recreate that.

The tropes of Jonny are still there. He’s still disappointed and angry with the world. He hates a lot of the mundanity that goes on, some of his best jokes of the night are out and out brutality on things that we consider social norms, and by illuminating them as being so … well … shit… Jonny does us all a favour.

Jonny probably was, and to an extent, still is, the cool kid at school you wanted to be like but lacked the bravery to pull off. He is a courageous performer, not afraid to do what he thinks is good and then sells the shit out of it. He’s also an actor and he draws on this skillset a lot and to excellent use.

The only criticism I would have of the show it the profundity at the end. I didn’t think it needed it, and I didn’t think it added anything to the show. However it was a part that meant something to Jonny so I can forgive the self-indulgence.

All in all, this is an excellent show and one I highly recommend you catch. And it turned out that a piece he wrote for this site a couple of years ago was all part of the creative process for putting on “Loose”. So in some way, I’m claiming partial responsibility. Yeah.

 

Loose, the return season

On at BATS Theatre

Friday, 21 August & Saturday 22 August at 8:30pm (nearly sold out!)

Full: $15
Concession: $10
Groups of 6+: $9

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