John Hastings – Comedian John

By Nick Bugeja

If you’re in search of hilariously off-putting, unsavoury, and frankly, depraved anecdotes crafted into comedy gold, then Canadian comic John Hastings is your man. His show, Comedian John, is a great combination of standalone one-liners, bits and call-backs, and, of course, compelling tales involving himself, friends and utter strangers. His performance style is bursting with energy; it’s almost as if, through sheer insistence, he’s willing you to laugh at every joke he enunciates in his booming Canadian voice. And it’s hard to resist the invitation.

Hastings’ is eminently likeable (even if he doesn’t present himself as a particularly ‘eminent’ individual), and much of this comes from his self-deprecating opening. “I don’t look any age, I just look like I’ve been through a lot”, he tells us. And that’s not all: he compares himself to a robustly ‘used car’, acknowledges his likeness to a generic Victorian police officer, and concedes that he doesn’t look like a lot of fun. But as the adage goes, we ought not judge by appearance.

By establishing his bona fides as a comedian in this way early in the show, Hastings affords himself an unfettered licence to launch into material on particularly thorny subjects and stories. Each of his ‘set piece’ stories—involving a mugging in a London park, an unfortunate incident implicating a vodka bottle, and a WWII veteran presenting at his high school (they are too good to detail further here in writing—hits with maximum impact. On their own, they are irrepressibly funny, and Hastings’ writing, pacing, and overwrought energy only serve to amplify this.

In my personal experience, comics performing in rooms like those in the Victoria Hotel, the smaller rooms of the Melbourne Town Hall and the Greek Centre deliver the highest rate and greatest volume of laughs per capita. Comics in these rooms are established, but are yet to hit their ceiling; they remain hungry and eager to please their audiences. Hastings’ is included in this category of comedians. His show is impeccably structured and, in terms of his performance, alive and electric.

Comedian John is on at the Victoria Hotel until 21 April.