Dan Crowley’s debut show Fantastic. Great Move. Well Done, Dan (FGMWDD) at the 2023 Melbourne Comedy Festival skirted the lines of farce and satire, refusing to easily reconcile itself.
Sometimes comedy does teach you things.
Dan Crowley’s debut show Fantastic. Great Move. Well Done, Dan (FGMWDD) at the 2023 Melbourne Comedy Festival skirted the lines of farce and satire, refusing to easily reconcile itself. The preliminary finalist of the 2019 RAW comedy competition, the winner of University of Melbourne’s own comedy competition, and partaken in local PowerPoint comedy nights, Crowley’s solo festival debut was witnessed in “The Vault”—a sequestered and intimate room in the Speakeasy Theatre accessed via a CBD back alley.
From the outset, Crowley played with expectations. First, by asking us to keep our phones on during the show to fulfill his desire to embarrass an audience member if they were to receive a phone call during the show; which was then immediately followed by a bit whereby childhood images of Crowley (a great inclusion for any set) were accompanied by, “As you can probably tell, I… am racist,” before Crowley, visibly a person of colour, amended his statement to say, “half Sri-Lankan”.
Indeed, Crowley’s style of comedy that night was designed to provoke laughter out of shock whether through hyperbole, subverted expectations, or just brazen content. Crowley reads out trivia from Hitler’s IMDb page, then led the audience in a guessing game of whether Liam Neeson had pee in his pants in certain images. There was a strong slant towards political satire that refuses to take itself seriously, with the show’s writing leaning into irreverence in a way that brings to mind ABC’s The Weekly with Charlie Pickering and Shaun Micallef: Mad as Hell (impressive, but not unsurprising, then, to see marketing praise for Crowley from Mad as Hell writer Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall).
Rather than following a narrative or thematic throughline, Crowley jumped between topics with natural segues and repeated images of the globe coupled with statements about “lots going on right now”. Some aspects did feel less polished than others, leaving me with the impression that Crowley’s show was made from bits developed over the years being strung together to be showcased, rather than a cohesive show. In particular, an interlude featuring a satirical TED talk by “James Clarke” leading a charge against poverty had failed to land, in part because the motivation speaker is no longer as motivational as they once were, in part because bits poking ironic fun at motivational speakers are a little overdone. Still, the story of Clarke’s steady rise and cancellation accurately satirised the fickleness of contemporary society and social media, whilst providing a neat lynchpin for the second half of the show.
FGMWDD relied on irreverence and a certain facetious tone of humour, but there were still glimpses of earnestness. Crowley carried an acute political awareness, damning the CEOs of big banks for their crimes but at the same time as establishing a recurring bit about necrophilia and later questioning social media as a platform for performing social justice without real change. It was this last section that took on a more serious bent, with Crowley reeling off statistics about global poverty and questioning his own inaction–this, too, eventually set an expectation and deftly ducked under it to close out the show.
Crowley maintained an easy, affable presence throughout, leading the small but obligatory audience in two different choral voting segments and exchanging banter with the audience with smooth improvisation skills. Where the audience skewed towards an older demographic on that Tuesday evening, Crowley was the upstanding young man, and it was easy to see how he fell into being on stage as an emerging voice in live comedy. At the end of the show, he mentioned finding his start at PowerPoint comedy night; he leaned into the affordances of the multimedia element throughout the hour, from whipping out PowerPoint effects to re-enacting an excavated Facebook Messenger exchange with screenshots.
Fantastic. Great Move. Well Done, Dan. was a show about many things and very little at once; it was about the state of the world, cancellation as a punchline, the origins of necrophilia, and the job prospects of a Classics grad (been there myself). It emphasised the “comedy” in “political comedy”. From these foundations, I’m excited to see what great move Crowley makes next.