If you are a performer of confessional stand-up comedy it must be nigh on impossible to buy life insurance. Every show you dice with danger, and I would assume most nights it would be impossible to avoid severe bruising of your psyche, your ego and your self-esteem. Some nights you’d surely get cut by sharp, mean-spirited comments slicing through the darkness hurled by cheap wine fuelled, spotlight seeking, dickheads; and some nights, maybe you even die up there – backed into a situation where you’ve gone too far over into the darkside for any amount of applied comic training to successfully resuscitate you.
Evan Desmarais’s new show – I Like Me – running until March 13 at Gluttony’s The Piglet, sees him unable to resist baring his heart to his audience.
He is a man staring down the impending onset of middle-age, hurting from the betrayals of his best friend and his girlfriend, and is dealing with his subsequent insecurities by indulging in a little public psychotherapy.
The good news is that he is a pretty resilient sort of guy, able to laugh at his foibles and brave enough to have us laugh along with him, and not just at him.
His experience is odd enough to make his story escape dismissive accusations of being simple self-indulgence, and familiar enough to guarantee a significant degree of empathy from his audience.
His lively delivery and his expressive Kevin Smith (but skinnier!) lookalike face quickly get most of his audience warming to him, but as always there are those in attendance that seem hellbent on jousting with the main act.
The show served up its fair share of challenges for Desmarais – and the insurance assessors would have been nervous if they’d been there.
Punters with a ‘go on then, impress me’ attitude tested his mettle repeatedly, forcing him into smiling assassin mode on more than one occasion.
Paul, the transport logistician, walked out. Sarah, the wordy cynic, deliberately tried to put the man off his main game.
Desmarais negotiated these amateurs well enough, but the real test was yet to come.
How could anyone recover from a situation where they have demanded that the guy in the audience listening to music on his headphones, instead of paying attention to the performance, get up on the stage and sit there – in a chair, headphones in – for the rest of the show whilst he delivers a harrowing emotional tale of a self-destructive post-breakup sexual bender which included his first manhandling of another man’s tackle (amongst other experiments), only to find the guy up there on the stage is a 14 year old church-going schoolboy named after an Australian inland explorer?
Well, to his credit Desmarais did it, and did it admirably, recovering from a seemingly unrecoverable position, to triumph. It was an edge of your seat bravura performance that lesser beings would not have perhaps been able to deal with.
Desmarais started off the night by saying he wanted us all to recognise that he has a heart, and by the end of the show he was wearing that heart on his sleeve for us all to see.
I Like Me is a show worthy of checking out. Desmarais is good value, and more than just a proficient comedy craftsman – he is a Canadian. And who can honestly say they have met a Canadian that they didn’t like?
Rating: 4 stars
Evan Desmarais’ I Like Me is playing at Gluttony’s The Piglet from February 17 to March 5 at 9:05pm, and from March 7 to March 13 at 10:10pm. No Mondays.