“Alright ya bag of dicks”, as Gary McNair would open in Donald Robertson is Not a Comedian- a pseudo-theatre monologue piece about stand-up comedy and the nature of humour.
The show takes the form of a stand-up show, poorly run in a derelict “ChuckleHut”, never quite hitting the punchlines and doing everything possible to get the audience onside. The initial flurry of one-liners, stutteringly delivered was a near perfect parody of the hundreds of awkward white males that hog comedy nights up and down the country, but there’s more to it than that. After an initial few cheesy jokes (many stolen from other comics, as massive faux pas in the comedy world), the real meat of the show appears; the story of a bullied young boy, Donald Robertson, and his attempts to use humour to pull himself from the bottom of the pile.
Written and performed by Gary McNair, it is a perfectly enjoyable show so long as you didn’t come solely for theatre or solely for comedy. On the comedy side, the jokes are decent enough for your new act night down at The Stand, but would be unlikely to get any further than that, whereas the theatrical aspect is often downplayed, serious moments undercut by the next punchline and the plot is rather threadbare, bar a minor, albeit fantastically executed and clever, twist at the very death. The theatrical aspect is further ruined by an “interval” in which McNair drops character for a few minutes to drink from his pint and tell a couple more gags, both of which could have been achieved congruously with the piece, and the interval as a whole takes you out of the moment more than anything, which isn’t ideal in a show little over an hour.
However, despite this, the comedy and the theatre do come together very nicely, just a case of the whole being greater than the individual parts. By the end you start to become truly invested in the character of Donald, hoping that his jokes manage to win his bullies over, unlikely as that may seem. You feel for him when he tries to argue against McNair’s advice that he has to “kill” someone (that is, make jokes about another classmate to elevate himself) and the moral of having to step on those who help you is nicely driven without ever feeling heavy handed. His appearance at the end, as a performer in his school talent show, nicely ties together the threads of the narrative, and provides a satisfying conclusion to the show, although one that could do with a stronger punchline to go out on (rule of comedy: always leave the audience wanting more).
Overall, this is a strong effort from McNair; however, any potential audience members must be prepared not to expect a flawless theatrical monologue or a tight hour of stand-up, but if you put those expectations to the side you will doubtlessly be thoroughly entertained by lights up.