Review: Damien Power – Sell Mum Into Slavery
In a style located somewhere between a working class Australian, a university lecturer, and a comedian, Damien Power has the kind of show that makes you laugh, feel slightly uncomfortable, and prompts you to think. In equal measures of insulting, intriguing, and intellectually invigorating, Power’s show is definitely something to consider attending if you have time this Comedy Festival.
The show can be summed up from a quote from the show itself: “funny, but [makes you] think.”
As a performance, Power’s is a standout for stand-up. It is very well paced, with each “segment” of the show flowing seamlessly into the next without feeling forced. As an audience member, it feels as though you are taken along with the “story” of the show, something which is assisted by the theme and repeated motifs. It was a very well-oiled performance that was enjoyable being involved with – one can only imagine how fun it was to prepare it.
On the topics of themes, the show revolves around one primary theme – philosophy (especially a particular brand of Nihilism and Eliminative Materialism). Obviously, this is a bit niche, and there were plenty of people in the audience who didn’t get some of Power’s very clever jokes. Also, he pulled absolutely no punches when it came to content. When it came to insulting the inner city snobs of Melbourne, he let rip – something which was more effective because of his more working class Australian mannerisms (which the inner city Melbournians in the audience found slightly frightening and uncomfortable). By the same token, he also lampooned the rough and sometimes violent nature of outer suburban Melbourne – he was being fair in his criticisms.
One of the problem with having higher order jokes though is having a niche audience. Whilst he does explain the philosophical underpinnings of his arguments quite well, he doesn’t exactly baby the audience either – meaning that the audience ought to be at least aware of some of Nietzsche’s theories (ideally with a base understanding of some of the other Nihilist and Eliminative Materialist theories as well). Further base understandings of very simple Leftist theory is also advised – although this isn’t strictly necessary (but don’t worry – he’s not a communist). An audience outside of this rather select crowd is going to have their appreciation limited somewhat. Fortunately, Melbourne International Comedy Festival is just the place for this style – insults and all.
Besides, having existential questions in mundane scenarios is very middle-class and highly educated humour.
It was the delivery of the show that probably brought the most laughs. Although he did tend to rely on the “shouting” style that is often associated with more edgy comedians, this rawer performance worked very well as a counterpoint to the highly intellectual nature of his show. Furthermore, due in part to the accent, and due in part to the louder nature of the show, when he did actual shouting laughs, it was very effective.
So effective it was at times intimidating.
But aside from the louder elements of the show, in many ways it felt like going to a particularly animated philosophy lecturer, or possibly one of those slightly respectable hippie “preachers” (for lack of a better descriptor). Complex thoughts and controversial (and sometimes uncomfortable) opinions were thrown around in ways that were mostly digestible and, most importantly, engaging. The audience did leave scratching their heads a little at the end, which is a good sign.
Overall, a stellar performance and a very enjoyable show. With lots to intellectually sink your teeth into, as well as a very funny style and presentation, Powers’ show is something worth investigating. Although you should be go in with an awareness your ontological understanding of the world might be a little shaken.