John Robertson: Let's Redecorate!

comedy review | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 10 Aug 2015

Robertson bellows at his audience that he's the "biggest freak in a room full of freaks". Prowling the stage he displays that freakery proudly, extolling his interest in sadomasochism and threesomes. He bemoans English standup that strives to demonstrate a connection between the audience and the performer, instead drawing on his Australian background to justify his more combatative comic approach. So far, so shouty.

But the venomous energy has a more thoughtful purpose, as this is a show about the recent suicide of one his friends. More unexpected, that suicide seems to fit into a pattern where a distressingly large number of Robertson's family and acquaintances have similarly taken their own lives. His anger is less about these events, though, than our lack of frameworks for dealing with grief; he rails against people's primary interest in suicide being 'how did they do it?'. Robertson refuses to tell us the method his friend used, suggesting that there are limits to what a comedian is willing to share with his audience.

He works the crowd well, fixing individuals with a glare and mocking them in a manner that manages to be inclusive. There's a skill here in exploring a difficult topic such as suicide—using an in-yer-face style—without this appearing as a calculated move to stand out in an overcrowded market. Instead, a revelatory sweetness undercuts the vitriol, which points to a genuine befuddlement about both the act of suicide and how best to respond to it.