Carey Marx is back this Fringe with adroit observational comedy, analysing a veritable rainbow of taboo. Are we being too harsh on the Abominable Snowman? What is the appropriate terminology for ‘little people’? What would be the consequences of positive thinking if you really could bend the space-time continuum?
Marx is a very good joke writer. He is a deft wordsmith. He has a solid handle on irony, rationality, comedic timing and self-deprecation.
Marx flirts dangerously with material on every oppressed group, ethnicity, minority, or taboo topic you can think of. He doesn’t quite point his jokes ‘at’ these minorities, but sort of alongside them. It’s hard not to feel a little resentful of Marx’s strategy; he rakes in the laughs from people appreciating his broader arguments about political correctness gone rife or failed rationalism, as well as the audience that will laugh just by you saying the word ‘midget’ or ‘n****r’ on stage. It feels a little bit like Marx is having his cake and eating it too.
I left the show feeling a little betrayed and confused. Of course a lot of Marx’s material was tongue in cheek; his jokes at the expense of feminism, rape and anal sex etc. were almost entirely built on a premise of understanding that of course Marx probably didn’t really think that way. The joke is on you if you didn’t pick that up. But sometimes Marx doesn’t bring it back with any sort of statement to confirm that that is the case, meaning he leaves the thicker bigots in the room feeling vindicated.
Marx also seemed to miss the point about the movement for comedians to not do rape jokes. While it is possible to address rape through the medium of comedy, and it is possible to write jokes that don’t perpetuate victim blaming or humiliation, every single audience at this Fringe will have people in it (most probably women) who have experienced sexual assault. It’s just hard to get those LOLs rolling when someone’s bid for the laughs is sending individuals on traumatic flashbacks. It’s hard for those who through happy accident are protected by white male privilege to understand the prevalence of these issues. Maybe this illustrates some of the walkouts the gig experienced. By all means, go there, but ask yourself if you’re providing some worthwhile insight on the topic that is worth the cost.
Maybe the bitterness from the whole experience comes from the fact that Marx is a very good joke writer. He is a deft wordsmith. He has a solid handle on irony, rationality, comedic timing and self-deprecation. Maybe it’s idealistic to want your laughs served with a side of social justice, but its hard knowing that if Marx wanted to write comedy for people other than the middle-aged white male pub crowd he’d nail it.
A bitter sweet hour of assorted comedy.