Winner of the Best Newcomer Award at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival earlier this year and listed as one to watch by a variety of publications, Tasmanian born Luke McGregor should be brimming with confidence, but what we actually get is something entirely different.
From offstage we hear the first of many bumbling remarks from McGregor: “I’m a little nervous, umm, so if that’s cool, I’m going to do the show from backstage?” From the outset, he sets the tone and central theme of the show – awkwardness. He eventually steps out, reminiscent of Sid from Ice Age, with cartoonish facial twitches and big squirrely eyes, darting around as if he might be pounced on at any moment. Despite this, he has a lovable charm; endearing the audience to him and willing this red haired, Napoleon Dynamitesque caricature to succeed.
He giggle-snorts and squeaks his way through awkward self-admissions about his shortcomings in talking to girls, speed dating and his OCD. He admittedly loves first times, playing out a variety of examples: the first guy ever to dance, or decide to ride an animal; choosing which to ride through a process of elimination: “Sarah you’ve got horses, Gareth you’ve got tigers, Jessica you’ve got camels – careful they spit.” These bits of the show are little gems.
His verbal style and delivery is a little disjointed and stilted, with odd gaps and sentences punctuated with nervous laughs and squeaks. At times, you want to shake him and say, “finish the damn sentence!” but by the time he does, it’s never quite worth the anxiety and build-up. Sometimes the jokes go on just that bit too long and occasionally a punchline is thrown away or lost in a mumble of words. McGregor is at his best when being self-deprecating, checking his iPad, appearing to have lost his place, he gets the biggest laugh of the night; “I like to have this here, just to keep track of…it doesn’t actually have any notes, it just says, believe in yourself.”
After a solid build to the end, a meandering story gets interrupted just before the punchline by an obnoxious, loud sneeze. McGregor manages to wrangle big laughs out of the situation, explaining how the joke was going to work and breaking it down for the audience. Saved by the sneeze perhaps?
There’s nothing incredibly original here, but with sincerity and lovable charm, we’re drawn into McGregor’s bubble of insecurity: an enjoyable and most importantly, funny lens through which to see the world.