Jack Gow’s fringe comedy show, “Everybody’s Doing It! Dying That Is…” (Or EDI!DTI… if you’re pedantic), opens with darkness and the sound of someone fiddling with a radio. We hear garbled news grabs and slivers from songs before the stage bursts into light. Suddenly, there’s Gow. He begins with a cheap gag (“Cactuses look like they’re anticipating a high-ten they’ll never get, because they’re cactuses”) before admitting they’re not his thing. He introduces himself and his show—a blend of comedy, philosophy, tragedy, and hesitant optimism—and the fifty minutes that follow are, on balance, very good.
If you intend to see his show, stop here. The upshot of the review is you should. But what follows will spoil what is, above all else, a show that benefits from surprise.
Gow’s comedy is all about momentum. His anecdotes begin slowly—some too slowly—before jokes compound in on themselves, until the best punch lines are found embedded deep within stories as asides or follow-ups. Highlights include Gow interrogating how people end up working as human statutes (“of course, I look down on them”), and the image of a Bogan dying alongside his Holden V8 (he runs the exhaust pipe into the driver’s seat window when he hears that Holden’s shut down). Sometimes, I was underwhelmed by the overarching narratives, but utterly held by the digressions embedded in-between.
His comedy is unique, partially because of the bittersweet tone he entertains. Ostensibly straightforward comic structures segue seamlessly into emotionally affecting anecdotes. The show’s prevailing themes—death and alcoholism—are supported by brief glimpses into Gow’s formation in “the New England”. The tonal shifts are dramatic, as felt with the silence that accompanies Gow’s revelation he missed the news his mother had been hit by a car due to a hangover. And while the dark pieces of Gow’s set are very dark, the show remains a comedy due to his capacity to return to the sad pieces later and reconstruct them as something funny. A serious piece about Gow throwing a steak knife at his father is greeted with laughter when he returns to it later, suggesting Christmas 2014 might be round 2.
There are some jokes that fall flat, and some gags that feel weak, due possibly to over-rehearsal. Gow is undeniably best on the precipice, and the show’s funniest moments sound like asides he’s just thought up. Similarly, the cynicism that steeps the show’s first half feels like a bit of a drag, but is redeemed in the second half. The improvement feels like a conscious effort for the set to reflect Gow’s maturation into the person he is now. The garbled sound at the beginning? It’s Gow absently fiddling with radio knobs in a McDonalds car park after hearing about his mother’s accident. The flowers he’s holding? A bedside gesture he decries as a waste of time. These days, the world-weary comedian is common—and had Gow ended here I’d be disappointed—but the show’s coda upends the stereotype with some blunt force optimism. It provides some much-needed light at the end of a funny tunnel—a suggestion from Gow, about Gow, that even if the years 1990-2014 were a bit shit, there’s still the possibility the rest could pan out better.
The Matchbox, The Factory Theatre, $5
Saturday 13th – 8:15 Sunday 14th – 7:15