Tuesday 4 April 2023

Just Jolks review (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

I've been reviewing Barnie Duncan's shows in Melbourne since 2017. They have focused on physical theatre and comedy, both on his own or sharing the stage with other performers like Dani Cabs or Trygve Wakenshaw. These have always had Duncan playing a character or telling a story. But not anymore. For his new show Just Jolks, Duncan has removed all gimmicks and distractions and attempts to tell us jokes, the whole jokes and nothing but the jokes. He is a real comedian now.

Having evolved from physical comedy, Duncan needs to ensure we are aware of the advanced rules and conventions of joke telling. We go through what crowd work means and if he's going to do it or not, the mechanics of observational humour and even the apparatus required for this fresh form of comedy. Such is his skill in comedy that even with his matter-of-fact facial expressions and earnest tone, it's impossible to resist laughing at everything he says, particularly with his loose fitting colourful shirt, white singlet and red cap (and everyone knows real comedians wear black).

Duncan's humour is definitely on the quirky side of the comedy spectrum and hearing this material come from being himself, and in his own words is a joy. One could even argue that this is Duncan being his most open and vulnerable as there isn't much to separate the person from the performer. He takes mundane objects like a pair of sunglasses, a stool or a canary calcium phallus and turns them into something exciting and unknown, and having us go for a ride inside his head and seeing how he sees the world around him. His descriptive use of language gives the audience the ability to visualise the entirety of what he is saying regardless of how ridiculous it might be.

Just Jolks is Duncan's way of understanding stand-up and he does it with his own individual flair and absurdity that continues his streak of creating original and hilarious works. If this is the career path that Duncan is taking, it will be a huge loss to physical comedy because he is an absolute star in that field, but this hour of stand-up proves Duncan ain't a one trick pony. This guy is the real deal and the more he reins himself in and strips the stage bare, the bigger, better and funnier he gets.


Trades Hall, 54 Victoria St, Carlton
until 9 April | Tues, Thurs - Sat 9:15pm, Sun 8:15pm
60 minutes
$26-$29 Full | $23-$26 Conc | $21 Tightarse Tuesday
Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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