Michael Chamberlin’s new show “Joy and Despair” is, quite frankly, light on the joy and heavy on the despair. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very funny show. Chamberlin’s ‘set ‘em up and knock ‘em down is as sharp as ever, if not sharper. But if you’re feeling a bit down going in, don’t expect to come out feeling upbeat.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with this. Comedy and tragedy make natural bedfellows, and some of the great comedians have demonstrated the sublime heights of bellowing, depressed comedy. Chamberlin, whether he likes it or not, is heading down that path in this show. This is a darker Chamberlin, reflecting shades of the great Bill Hicks, albeit Hicks as a ‘nine year old girl with a lisp’ (to paraphrase Chamberlin himself). Chamberlin talks about his mind moving from one extreme to another. He takes every positive thought and deconstructs it down to its worst possible outcomes.
It is Chamberlin’s move last year to Sydney which fuels the bulk of the story. He finds himself suddenly alone, being bullied by a seven year old girl, discovering new debaucheries in the act of self-love, yelling at the beautiful people in the supermarket, indulging in irrational hatred of neck tattoos, taking a chance on a girl, only to be stood up on the third date and becoming involved in a sexually charged dogacide. There is a decline in society and it has left Chamberlin numb to the world around him, he can only be touched by a children’s story about a boy and penguin.
The one irritating aspect of the show was Chamberlin’s continued live deconstruction of the show as it went along. I found it hard to reconcile my knowledge of his experience with what seems like such an amateurish mistake. The only resolution in my mind is that it could be construed as yet another symptom of Chamberlin’s insecurity.
This show is bitingly funny and appears to mark a new chapter in Chamberlin’s progression. If you’re interested in comedy that’s a bit on the dark side then the slight and deceptively pretty Michael Chamberlin is the go. Very funny but not recommended for suicide risks.
Michael Chamberlin – Joy and Despair is on at the Acacia Room at The Victoria Hotel.