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Funny and Dark: Spend the Night With Us at Sydney Fringe Comedy

William Edwards laughs riotously

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Please, Spend The Night With Us is a hilarious and incredibly empathetic insight into the lives of three young comedians. This one-hour show is divided into three twenty-minute stand-up acts, one each by Jack Savage, Jacinta Gregory, and Shubha Sivasubramanian. While the three performers don’t interact on stage until end of show bows, they share self-deprecation and loneliness. While less talented performers deal in those commodities humourlessly and uncomfortably, Savage, Gregory, and Sivasubramanian almost unfailingly find the funny side of the dark side.

Savage skilfully presents himself as a lovable everyman unwillingly thrust into extraordinary situations, his act climaxing in a whirlwind journey from Byron Bay to the Republic of Belarus, from Splendour in the Grass to nuclear apocalypse. He deftly contrasts his persona of an ordinary person with simple desires against the utter absurdity of the scenarios he somehow finds himself in, provoking raucous laughter by passionately exclaiming his frustration with them. I had never wanted to punch someone I hadn’t met until I heard Savage recount his experiences with a particularly obnoxious retail customer. I laughed raucously throughout Savage’s act, but the final few minutes feel somewhat repetitive and are less memorable than all that preceded them. The act could benefit from abridgement or other changes to its ending.

Gregory’s act most directly addresses the show’s theme of loneliness, yet paradoxically feels the cheeriest, a feat accomplished by the inclusion of live music and guest performers William Cook and Olga Solar. Gregory uses her stand-up as a framing device for music. She plays guitar, Cook plays percussion, and Solar plays violin. These songs (titles include ‘You Facebook Poked Me (In the Heart)’ and ‘What Would Karl Marx Do’) are an excellent example of using comedy to explore otherwise sad issues, which Gregory accomplishes in a manner that is both wholly relatable and riotously funny. Her sharp wit and musical talent are a wonderful combination. Were she to record these or similar songs for sale, I would buy them in a heartbeat. Her act is a brilliant inclusion to the show as a whole, as the presence of music provides variety and a fun change of pace to what would otherwise be a purely stand-up show.

Sivasubramanian has a tremendous ability to read her audience, to understand what they want and to give it to them. Obviously aware of this, she chooses to partially improvise her act, throwing out ideas and tangents then pursuing those which provoke the most laughter. While doing so she has a tendency to directly engage with individual audience members, which in addition to her self-deprecating sense of humour make her seem entirely approachable and sympathetic. Her strategy of pushing those ideas and tangents to their extremes, which is to say, as far as the audience will continue laughing, renders her act absolutely risible. There are occasions on which she pushes too far, on some occasions even to an audience’s discomfort, but her ability to understand her audience usually saves her. She covers the rare failed joke with a superior replacement or else starts a new bit, bringing audiences back on side within seconds. Her other key strength is her skill at imitation, which she seamlessly inserts into her anecdotes to great effect.

The only flaw in the show as a whole is wasted time between acts, with a few seconds too many of an empty, silent stage between one comedian’s exit and another’s entrance. This is a very minor gripe. Between the performers’ individual talents, the clever but not limiting thematic consistency, and the inclusion of music for welcome variety, Savage, Gregory, and Sivasubramanian have offered one of the Fringe Festival’s strongest shows this year. They asked me to spend the night with them and I am overjoyed that I did. If the show runs again, you should too.