Comics have tried all sorts of things to innovate standup over the years: music, props, running on a treadmill, performing only in Mandarin, etc. And it’s tricky to make it an intrinsic part of the show rather than just a gimmick. Here, George the Robot is both the comedian and the innovation: he’s a sentient machine that operates in a convenience store with dreams of being on stage.
At least, that’s the premise. This is of course the product of an entirely human brain, Adelaide-based comedian and George’s 'support act' Matt Vesely. The Robot is – for want of a better expression – a device used to explore the relationship between comedy and the human condition, with Vesely soon roped in to coach the struggling machine in standup.
Vesely was also one of the writers on ABC’s hit series Fucking Adelaide, a TV show not without its own flashes of surreal humour. It’s his eye for the surreal in the everyday that keeps us engaged with the 'duo' for much of the hour, despite it just being a man talking to a blinking HAL-9000-a-like with a synthesised recorded voice.
But the script does meander and, if this is in an effort to simulate spontaneity, tests our patience. Vesely ably milks the straight man-comic dynamic thanks to George’s unavoidably literal and robotic perspective, but if there’s a solid spine behind the gags it often doesn’t show.
It’s ultimately a bold exploration of mental health, but Vesely’s skill with funny repartee ensures the show isn’t a total downer. He also doesn’t trivialise the issue. With a tighter structure, A Very Normal Stand Up Comedy Routine could achieve the quality its concept deserves.