Towards the end of ‘Joy & Despair’, Michael Chamberlin sums up his show: ‘What I find funny I don’t think I’m meant to find funny’. This one sentence encapsulates his subtle, slightly off-the-beaten-path style of humour. Alternating between longer storytelling and short pieces where he rattles of lots of funny lines, Chamberlin focuses on the point of his show: how things that give him happiness inevitable get him down. At times, this humour is riveting; at others, he depresses the audience with his too-close-to-home tales (the story of his first kiss elicits an “aw” of commiseration from the crowd).
His five-month move to Sydney for work last year serves as the framework in which he talks about people he hates – unicyclists come under fire, as do beautiful people in one of the standouts of the show. A seven-year-old girl and his five-year-old nephew both provide bits, although the latter story, wherein Chamberlin reads a bedtime story about a penguin, is much funnier. By far the most hilarious bit involves a car accident – a so-bad-it’s-good storyline that will make you wonder why you can possibly laugh over something so sad.
Very rarely, Chamberlin stumbles over a punchline, but the general pacing and delivery of ‘Joy & Despair’ is one of a keen showman, someone who has spent years honing his standup and getting in the best lines. (After all, writing comedy is what he does for a living.)
This is finely-honed comedy, a show not about the obvious. You won’t constantly be guffawing, but it’s riveting, fascinating stuff. Oh, and for the record, Chamberlin has never once wanked into a bin.
Michael Chamberlin on Joy & Despair