Jon Bennett: My Dad's Deaths - Friday 29th September
I crash land into a parking spot in the near-deserted Festival Hub carpark. It’s 8.54pm on a Friday night.
Going to a comedy show alone feels peculiar, but given the erratic week I’ve had, I’m relieved at the prospect of not having to laugh out loud unless something is truly funny. I won’t feel responsible for contributing to someone else’s good time. But then again, I won’t be able to say to anyone hey remember that time at Jon Bennett’s show when that hilarious joke happened.
Swings and roundabouts.
I gingerly take a place near the bar at a high-top table sticky with all of September’s drink rings; relics of incomplete conversations with half-strangers.
The Library of Babel is finishing up in the distance – sheer panels of wood and plastic, a tiny maze in the middle of a warehouse. People are filtering out of tucked-away spaces – they all seem relaxed, smiling.
Patrons are ushered every which way now, and for Jon Bennett’s My Dad’s Deaths we shepherd ourselves out of the illuminated bar space, across a concrete no-man’s land, towards a makeshift black-curtained stage. I clamber up the bleachers feeling like a beginner on a tightrope course. I am perched, ready, jaw ajar, readier than ever to laugh or be moved, or preferably both at once.
A man with dark curls, a 5 o’clock shadow and black clothing materialises unceremoniously from behind a curtain. He looks like a despondent poet, a put-upon Beatnik. And yet, this is also the man who rose to fame by literally “pretending things are a cock” (also the title of another of his shows).
I’m already torn, and he hasn’t even opened his mouth.
He takes his place at the microphone stand. The powerpoint presentation plays up. People are patient, because, I suspect, a comedy show is the one context in which a powerpoint presentation is just funny.
Jon’s Dad is a man whose face reminds me of anyone’s Dad. Not necessarily because of his face, perhaps because of my generation, perhaps because of the Paul Jennings-y, larrikin-esque, rural tone to Jon’s opening anecdotes. This feeling is so spatially situated, so warm and almost sickly sweet. But overall it’s like sucking on a Ghost Drop. Jon adds a perfectly sour twang to the suck. It cuts through nicely.
We watch Jon sweat, grimace, grow hoarse, laugh—he wrangles with a lifetime of history with a father, a minister, a teacher, a disciplinarian, a killjoy, and I feel like I’m reaching out to grab his hand throughout, but he keeps swatting it away.
Curiously (so curiously – in fact I may be obsessed with such curiosity), my dad sent me an excerpt from John Banville’s The Sea today, unanticipated:
“We carry the dead with us only until we die too, and then it is we who are borne along for a little while, and then our bearers in their turn drop, and so on into the unimaginable generations.”
[This is Eleni's final piece for the 2017 Fringe – come back tomorrow for the final wrap-up of this past month.]
Written by Eleni Schumacher