Review: Simon Keck – Can’t Get No

Keckyll and Hyde: nice but nasty Simon Keck.

Keckyll and Hyde: nice but nasty Simon Keck.

Can’t Get No
Starring: Simon Keck
Appearing at: Madame Brussels, for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival


“I’m a nice guy, but I’m also an arsehole,” said curly-haired, bespectacled Simon Keck, who looks like a cross between Justin Timberlake and John Safran. This is the intriguing tension in his comic persona. For me, this show erred too much towards blandness; his cruellest observations were his funniest.

I first came across Keck when he was employed by the 2010 Melbourne Writers’ Festival to contribute a festival blog that proved pleasingly wicked and anarchic. (Sample line: “A volunteer asked if we could step back a bit to allow Catherine Deveny’s ego to make it through.”)

His standup material also struck me as writerly. Keck is a relaxed and engaging performer with an elegant turn of phrase, and much of his humour came from surprising or incongruous word choices. I kept imagining how what I’d just heard would read on the page or the screen.

He recently observed on Twitter the paradox that straight standup might be regarded as ‘alt-comedy’. Presenting loosely segued anthologies of ‘bits’ is definitely something many Australian comedians are tending away from in favour of story shows, character comedy and lo-fi hijinks.

I’m all for straight standup, but unfortunately I felt Keck was traversing familiar ground. His show is ostensibly about our efforts to find contentment, and he repeatedly returned to his struggle to come to terms with being in a stable, committed relationship with his girlfriend. But too often he seemed to resort to clichés – for instance, that chicks always want to get married but fancy-free dudes find weddings the very definition of hell.

I liked Keck much more when he was being a total cunt in the body of a decent guy. This lets him take the sting out of some really mean observations. For me the show highlight was his praise of sluts – an imaginative, self-reflexive tightrope walk between affection and misogyny.

The clubby surrounds of Madame Brussels’ back parlour are a great spot for comedy (if there was some way to prevent the clamour of a busy Saturday night leaking through). The room is crying out for a subversive kind of standup night – one that substitutes martinis for pints – and perhaps Keck is the guy to run it.

I have to disclaim that I didn’t see Keck’s entire set, because it started late and I had to leave at the end of the advertised 55 minutes in order not to miss the start of my next scheduled show. This mightn’t be a problem for most festivalgoers, who are only attending one or perhaps two shows per night, but it does frustrate reviewers.

To add to my frustration, Keck didn’t even kick off his own show. He had a support act named Aiden Pyne whose routine was painfully unfunny. It felt like a real misstep to squander the running time on this – or perhaps it was intended to pad the show out. Next time, let Aiden test out his material on people who’ve actually come to see him.

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