All comedians have that bad night where they just can’t get the audience laughing. This includes successful comedians and shows that are successful on other nights. I know this show has been successful with other audiences and it did win an award (as Paul kept reminding us) but from the mostly weak material I heard, I just couldn’t see how this was possible.
After a cheerful welcome Paul begins by explaining the title. The Honeypot he says refers to an espionage recruitment technique. He is luring the audience in with a sexy poster of himself covered in honey. What he fails to grasp (apart from the fact that he’s just put the audience off side by gloating at having duped them) is that Honeypot, more traditionally, means vagina (See Karma Sutra or a dictionary) and considering his keen-ness to mainsplain feminism at us from the get go, it is quite strange that he ignores mentioning this extraordinary sexist attitude to female spies and working women being valued as pretty sticky vessels. Maybe he shouldn’t have explained the title.
From there it is a big muddled mess of rambling ideas and delivery with no sense of rhythm or where it’s going. He announces that the show is about privilege. He is going to talk about topics (sexism, racism) where white middle class men traditionally take the role of villain. He is aware he is privileged but assured that he is not a villain.
The room goes silent waiting for the laughs as he explains things. He really needs a lot more jokes up the front to win over the audience before he starts tackling difficult topics that he has failed to research adequately. He opens up the topic of Australian Aboriginal footballer Adam Goodes then says he knows nothing of sport and “I don’t know what happened there”, remarks on Lord of the Flies, followed by “I’ve never seen it”. I suspect/hope he was being ironic, but it was too hard to tell. He kept saying so many dumb things.
Paul made a lot of rookie mistakes the night I saw him, here are ten of them.
- Never blame or turn on the audience for not laughing, even if they are to blame.
- Saying or explaining important things from your perspective does not equal comedy.
- Know all your comedy show subject matter back to front. Especially if it’s an important social issue.
- Don’t try to win the audience around by saying “This show won an award” way too often.
- Have some witty retorts to general heckles or disruptions from the audience up your sleeve, or ignore them.
- If there are hostile elements in the audience and you are floundering, don’t ask “Any Questions?”
- If you do ask for “Any Questions?” and an audience member asks a reasonable question about a confusing section of your show, answer it or respond in some way, after all, you asked
- Don’t ask “Any Questions?” again later in the show.
- You should not explain a joke when it bombs.
- Don’t ever say to the audience “you DO understand how that is a joke don’t you?”
An interesting aspect of the show was the sudden appearance of Verbatim Theatre as Paul reads out a complete online conversation he had with a guy who posted some sexist pics on Facebook. Paul was proving what a great Feminist he was by putting a facebook friend in his place. It went on too long and Paul clearly didn’t understand why the audience wasn’t laughing at the ignorant oaf while joyously sharing in Paul’s triumph.
It was hard for me to understand what Paul was doing with this show. If it was all supposed to be irony he didn’t pull it off. Was he parodying privileged arrogant dumb jerks or was he just behaving like one? Was this all some sort of Andy Kaufman/Tony Clifton type hoax? As a privileged Male Paul knows it’s good to not have everything go his way all the time and this night was one of those nights.
Paul Culliver – The Honeypot is at Belleville Sept 19 – 24