Stories about jetlag have a single comedic purpose and this is not to provoke an immediate laugh. Rather, pseudo-jokes of the If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium type exist to excuse the possible lack of future laughter. You’ve heard the disclaimer before: I’m tired so don’t expect me to be funny. And, if I am, you can be pleasantly surprised.
Rich Hall, who has been much more than pleasantly surprising over his long career, offers us this formal caution about his weariness from flying and doesn’t really ascend from there. In a set of just 50 minutes, he goes almost nowhere at a cracking pace and this busy stasis is assured by a room over-full with hecklers who have raided the bar and learned that their comic is vulnerable. I’m all for freedom of expression but John the Digital Expert from London can truly fuck off to a locked box from which he shall not emerge until he learns to shut up during a bit.
It may be the case that Hall had a well-written show but if he did, it was soon abandoned to the nervous sport of arguing with the really drunk guy. Then, with all the other really drunk guys who could smell their travel-weary prey, even through the stink of bourbon with coke. Oh, god it was tedious and awful.
Hall, let it be plainly said, is one funny bugger and he managed to drag the room back from attack with some of his wonderful songs. But, he lost it again with an ill-advised combination of jokes that all had the vulnerable — mobile home dwellers and short-statured people — as their target. Punching up is the correct defensive posture for a comedian losing his battle. A night of punching down made Hall look, a bit like John from London did, a loser.
Perhaps before Hall boards his next flight, he’ll pull a good set in Melbourne. The man can be very, very good and if you’re a passenger not averse to risk, you could be rewarded with take-off.