Review: Michael Workman – Humans Are Beautiful
Humans Are Beautiful
Starring: Michael Workman
Appearing at: Trades Hall New Ballroom, for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival
A relatively unknown entity, despite winning Raw Comedy in 2009, Michael Workman was a disarmingly pleasant surprise. His demeanour and delivery being that of a slightly stoned, startled and uncertain man, the unwitting audience member (who, me?) could easily fall into the trap of silently pleading with him to “please be good, please be good, please be good” during his opening monologue.
Guess what? Michael Workman is good. It might take you a little while to warm to him and realise this, but sometimes that’s just how the best art works (The Wire, anyone?).
But let’s not go tossing the B-word around. Apart from the fact that it’s an entirely subjective and therefore effectively useless adjective for anything creative, it’s also not applicable. Workman is certainly not going to appeal to everybody with this show, and with his idiosyncratic and vaguely off-putting languidness he’s unlikely to ever have the broad commercial appeal of someone like Wil Anderson, who is apparently quite the fan. But don’t let that dissuade you.
The show is surreal and not-quite-dark. It’s kind of off-kilter stand-up framed in an odd story about a time that Workman wandered homeless through a war-torn land in the company of a talking dog and a grave-digging arts student called Penny. As he trundles lackadaisically through this ultimately endearing tale, he frequently breaks narrative to deliver a deadpan joke.
These jokes range from the self-deprecating ‘hopeless arts graduate’ variety – and it probably helps to be a self-deprecating hopeless arts graduate to fully appreciate the show – to the outré observational species. They often sneak up on you and reveal themselves to be funny and thought-provoking in equal measure, but without the narrative framing of that curious story it would all be a bit so-so.
Workman won Raw Comedy after only four months in the business or something. Presumably that takes a prodigious amount of innate talent and/or a recherché sense of the ridiculous. If he can hone these, he might be onto something.
I’m still not sure what it was all about, and not all of the jokes hit their targets, but Humans Are Beautiful is a weird little unexpected delight.
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