Robert Mitchell (the comic alter-ego of Mitchell E. Roberts) has always wanted to be a stand up comedian. There is, however, one…complication. Following a challenge by his irate mother that he and his brother engage in a game of “who can be quite the longest”, Robert hasn’t spoken in seventeen years. But he’s not letting that stop him live his dream. Warning: this show May Contain Traces of Reading.
As soon as I saw the premise, I was hooked. An hour of stand up comedy without a single spoken word? AND he’s handling hecklers? Here, I thought, was an incredibly brave and creative artistic decision, which, I must admit, also had the capacity to go horribly, horribly wrong. But the risk paid off in a major way, and the audience were kept in hysterics by his silent comedic antics. With the assistance of Captain Mac Sparrow and an incredible number of Dad Jokes, Mitchell delivered routines on a variety of stand up staples with this unique twist, such as the difficulties of dating, working in hospitality, and some especially hilarious celebrity impressions (his Britney Spears has to be seen to be believed, and had me in stitches).
One thing that particularly stood out to me as a fundamental part of the show was his use of the Voltaire quote, “God is a comedian playing to an audience that is too afraid to laugh”; to this end, he explained, it was win-win for him whether we laughed or not, periodically moving an arrow on a gauge measuring his closeness to either “God” or “Comedian” (this device providing a fair share of laughs itself). His “Bartender Script” struck an exceedingly relatable chord with anyone who has ever worked hospitality, highlighting the incredible inanity that they’re forced to deal with on a daily basis. His encore on the Angels classic Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again was, while fairly safe (expletives excluded), still an enjoyable piece of audience participation, made even more so by his pantomime level expressions and movement.
May Contain Traces of Reading is a show that, in every sense, has to be seen to be believed. Words cannot really express fully this unique comedic experience. The intrigue alone of how a person can perform stand up without speaking will lure you in, and what you find will bring a smile to your face. I look forward to seeing more of Mitchell.