Monkey Barrel Comedy
Aug 7-12, 14-18, 22-28 (18.10)
#Pierre Novellie originally wrote this show to be performed at the Fringe in 2020. He’s had 3 years then to hone this hour of finely distilled impotent fury, and it really shows. This is, almost, a faultless performance of high-status musings on all of the things he does not enjoy about life, and there are many of them.
Novellie is akin to a stand-up Doctor Strange, and we the audience his Peter Parker. He escorts us on a voyage through a mental multi-verse of realities featuring cameos from ‘big pharma bro’s’, silicon valley CEO’s, survivalists, ‘fishing people’ & a very famous ‘piss-goblin’. To keep the audience on track requires an intimidating arsenal of talent, charm, and skillful delivery. Thankfully, he has all of these in abundance.
He holds pauses with a light confidence, & his weaponised enunciation & tactically applied repetition of key phrases is punctuated beautifully with eyes, brows, grins and grimaces. This is a performer who considers the weight & nuance of every aspect of their delivery, to allow the audience to slowly inhabit his ‘other world’, & gently pull us in. Make no mistake, the audience needs these finger holds. The main body of the show is a truly wonderful, & labyrinthine, flight of inner monologue fantasy. As Novellie himself warns us, these are ‘decision tree thought processes which can spiral into destruction’. Next time you consider asking a friend, or partner, “What are you thinking?”, you may have second thoughts.
As with all of the finest performers of densely layered, thematic, comedy, Pierre allows the set itself to do all the work here. There is an easy confidence dripping from him as the hour progresses, beading like the fine sweat on his brow, and hanging from his frame as he moves about the stage like the fabulous, tailored, velvet dinner jacket he sports to make corporeal his affected superiority to the chattering classes who ruin his evenings at the theatre with their reeking Pringles and drunken chit chat. This is John Kearns level of surreal storytelling excellence which Novellie delivers with his own matured, idiosyncratic, mastery.
There is only one weak section of the show, and given the incredibly high quality of the rest of the material it stands out a little sorely. The jokes about Tesco meal deals are a little too close to Peter Kay territory for my own liking, and this material jars with the Spike Milligan surrealism of the stand-out flight of fancy section in Berlins famous Berghain nightclub. If you can leave an entire room in stitches whilst riffing on bodily fluids, mayonnaise, BDSM, & fish blood at 5pm on a Thursday, you’ve probably found your calling in life.
I had the pleasure about 7 or 8 years ago of watching a group of my favourite stand ups performing a ‘super-group’ midnight show, and I accidentally ended up with Pierre as company for the evening. Throughout that set we both guffawed, heaved, yelped and squealed in delight whilst watching masters of the art, and several future award winners, freely do their thing in joyous fashion, in front of a room packed with adoring fans. It felt a great privilege then to find myself watching Pierre performing to precisely this level, and receiving the same rapturous applause, himself. It is apposite in the extreme that with “Why can’t I just enjoy things?” he has joined a pantheon Fringe classics, & comedy greats, which includes so many of his own favourite performers.