Fringe Review: Gerard McGowan "Only Getting Funnier"
It's difficult to review stand-up comedy. What you find funny, I might not find funny, there's no arguing taste, etc. etc. But everyone in attendance at Gerard McGowan's Only Getting Funnier -- all 8 of us -- can agree that Gerard McGowan was having a tough go of it. Halfway through the show McGowan pointed out the obvious: he was bombing. He didn't spin that into a joke. It was just a fact he slid in like he was commenting on a bus schedule.
What stand-up comedians do, whether they're performing for a crowd of 8 or 80,000, is ride the wave. McGowan rode the wave admirably, considering that the crowd was particularly muted if I'm being generous and lousy if I'm being honest. For instance, a couple seated right at the front were jabbering on about Basically Who Cares. McGowan deftly picked on them twice in a way that provoked some solid guffaws without embarrassing the couple so badly. He wasn't joking when at the beginning of his set he said, "I'm not one of those comedians that will tell you to fuck off or anything like that."
I can't say why the crowd was so eager to hold onto their laughs like it was a non-renewable resource. Most likely it's nobodies fault and the chemistry just wasn't right. A lesser comedian would've melted down before this stony gathering, perhaps even making the crowd the target of their bubbling, blackly sardonic ire. I've seen it before. But if anything, McGowan painted a target on himself and hit bullseye after bullseye, positive crowd response be damned. Sometimes it was excruciating; there's only so much smilin' self-loathing you can take. But sometimes it was so goddamn hilarious that McGowan was striking gold.
One such instance of comedic gold was during a reminiscence on receiving a shocking thrush diagnosis. To go through the joke would wreck it, but at the centre of it was a truism I've always held to: there's nothing less funny than a well-adjusted and healthy young man. McGowan's neuroticism was on full display during his thrush story, and it was as heartwarming as it was funny. There were two other stories similar to this, and it was McGowan at his best.
But there were some jokes and snarky asides that missed the mark completely. The seconds of dead air after these duds thudded was frightening. However, McGowan just seemed to internally shrug and get on with the next joke. A true professional. If indeed he was bombing, it was the most amiable bomb ever.
Only Getting Funnier was erratic, a little all over the place. Inconsistent. And yet, when he focused on them, the punchlines and setups were brilliantly put together; I wouldn't think a jerk-off towel prop would be anything that amusing, but I was proven wrong. The layered callbacks were often more clever than amusing, but there's absolutely no denying the cleverness.
He's worth checking out. But hope to god that the crowd is at least appreciably in the mood for a laugh or two.