Review: Joel Dommett

4 April 2016

What do we want when we buy tickets to a comedy show? What does the soul seek from standup? If it’s relatability, surprised chuckles or the skilful impersonation of a pair of curtains, Joel Dommett’s MlCF show Conquer did just that.

On Sunday night, Dommett tore – literally, tore through a large sheet of baking paper with a penis drawn on it – onto a tiny stage in the Melbourne Town Hall. For the duration of the next hour, the wiry, beardy Brit had secured the attention and the inconstant but heartfelt laughter of the 40 or so people squeezed into the Cloak Room.

With the talent for storytelling that accompanies any good comic onstage, Dommett’s set gives us the tale of Tube Girl, the “most beautiful girl in the world” with whom he had a public transit meet-cute and subsequently went to great lengths to locate and date.

His best friend, he recounted, gets on at him for not telling “short jokes” (Setup? Punchline!), but this tendency is Conquer’s defining positive quality. Dommett’s aptitude for weaving tangents and self-referential tidbits (if you walked in halfway through the set, as a friend of mine embarrassingly did, about half of the jokes would be lost to you by virtue of being references to earlier ones) throughout a long-form comedic story, in which the audience became genuinely emotionally invested, made the hour memorable beyond such soundbyte jokes as “I’d rather be gay than rude”. Any anecdotes perhaps more self-indulgent than funny (like, perchance, one or two dramatised personal diary entries) are saved by Dommett’s easy rapport with audience and buoyant stage presence.

By far the hour’s funniest moment, however ­­– whatever this says of Dommett himself – was the activation of a confetti canon, apparently remote controlled by an audience member who’d been told to fire it “at the right time”, after Dommett said three magic words: “My grandpa died”.

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