March 17, 2008

Shouldn’t give up his night job

Filed under: Archive,Comedy


Adelaide Fringe 2008
Rove McManus

Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide
March 15.
Melbourne Comedy Festival
Melbourne Town Hall
April 10-12. Tickets $39.90 – $ 44.50.

On stage for Rove McManus’s stand-up gig at the Thebarton Theatre is a giant picture of a goldfish in a bowl. The fish has large Disney eyes and extruding from its tail, in streaming black calligraphy comes Rove’s famous name. It is a joke very much at his own expense and it is a likeable one. Rove McManus, star of the fishbowl of television, winner of Logies and a household word, someone who has his name in lights, now has his name in fish poo.

It is part of his gags to riches legend that McManus’s day job was in stand-up before his remarkable rise to network television and, once again, Rove has taken to the boards for a national comedy  tour undertaken in stages across the year. He last performed live in 2005 and most recently at the Melbourne Comedy Festival in 2000.

In his opening gig in the last weekend of the Adelaide Fringe he is looking trim and relaxed as the crowd greets him with squeals and phone cameras. This is Rove actually live – out of the fishbowl and joking about his logo. He points out that the fish had to excrete  his name backwards – ‘e’ first. It’s a smart joke about having to see the whole concept before you start.

Which is something he may need to do for his show as well. There is something strangely innocent about his approach to his comedy, as if he can ignore his celebrity and make lame jokes like the old days. He is topical with the Adelaide heatwave, there are ruminations about MySpace and FaceBook  and when he needs to strike a change, inexplicably, two extras run on stage  for a strobing Benny Hill chase.

But there is a reticence in the comedy and an evident need to please and not challenge. Whereas many Australian comics are derisory of the media, his television jokes are tentative and bland, using the easy name-checks of an insider unwilling to bite the hand.  The jokes about the Pope’s makeover and the George Bush bloopers are fun but the material dwindles and surprises are few. There is no doubting Rove’s charm, modesty  and warmth and the crowd roared at his baby bump rap. But this show isn’t playing to his strengths any more. Others can do stand up but, fishbowl or not, no one can match him at his night job.

Murray Bramwell

“Shouldn’t give up his night job” The Australian , March 17, 2008, p.16.

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