David O’Doherty review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

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After last year’s show, I was keen to see where David O’Doherty was at; one year older, wiser, maybe even funnier.

Like last year, O’Doherty begins low-key. He wanders on stage as people are still finding seats and starts speaking almost before anyone has noticed this slightly disheveled guy is, in fact, the main act.

The disarming charm and cruisy Irish manner remain too. O’Doherty is a ‘warm jumper’ comic – his material is at times messy and dirty, but it’s never offensive or insensitive.

But this time around he seems to have arrived at a place where he draws on a mix of observation of life’s absurdities and some carefully exaggerated stories about his recent experiences. One, about a hospital visit is especially good for its combination of self-deprecation and sheer silliness.

His jokes and stories feel might appear effortless but are borne of 20-odd years of road testing. There has been a step-change in the way he constructs jokes; it’s now the difference between a good violin maker and a really great one. It’s in the tonal qualities, the way the instrument feels in your hands, the way it sings sweetly. His comedy is in that zone now – unconsciously assured and smooth as silk.

This stands out more because of the growing monster that is the quest for a high joke rate that seems to have overtaken comedy. It’s telling that he recommends Lazy Susan to us as he closes his show, because their work is rapidly punched-out sketches.

O’Doherty’s comedy has moved into that direction too. He is damn near non-stop all night, flipping out joke after joke and keeping us in high levels of laughter all show. It’s rare that a performance is so even at such a high level- even his song-based jokes packed with one liners and puns.

Consequentially, the show goes very quickly and before I think we’ve got even half way, it ends with us still wanting more.

I wonder if any of his high joke rate is driven by his recent experiences with younger audiences and their demands, perceived or real, to keep banging out material in order to keep attention up. Can it last? Are we asking too much of comics to maintain this sort of pace and so losing the long set-up and the late surprise payoff?

I’ve seen nearly all UK/Irish based shows this MICF time and this is where this trend mostly seems to becoming from, or, it could be a function of the way that the YouTube/meme generation wants to be entertained.

In any case, David O’Doherty delivers in spades.

David O’Doherty plays the Forum upstairs until April 21

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