Raph Shirley is not funny. This show was a bonding experience for the audience. Maybe not for the silent majority who left in the first half hour, but when the rest of us left the venue I felt that frisson of compassion which passes invisibly between co-sufferers.
Shirley is a semi-character comic. At least I hope he is. His character is an unpleasant, smug, petty-minded, delusional geek who thinks he can make it as a stand-up. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume this isn’t quite his day-to-day personality, but its still a problem. It’s possible to win over the audience while blurring the line between real comic and fictional anti-comic. Ed Aczel does this well, to choose one example, but Raph Shirley doesn’t.
Bad slapstick comedy is rarely funny. A description of bad, gross-out slapstick comedy is frequently worse. I’ll share one of Shirley’s attempts at self-deprecating humour with you. Don’t worry about me ruining it – I promise that knowing this ‘joke’ in advance won’t affect your enjoyment of the piece. It involves Shirley describing the worst thing he ever did: last year’s show. He explains that he only had one audience member, a 90-year-old war veteran. During the set, Shirley fell over and landed face-first in Mexican food. Then he stood up again. Then his trousers fell down. Then his underwear fell down. Then he defecated. Then a piece of tortilla chip fell from his face, grazed his penis, and landed in his ‘poo poo’ (as Shirley calls it, repeatedly) ‘like a kind of re-enactment of The Passion’. He then fell over, again, landed on his faeces, and the tortilla chip lodged itself in his anal cavity. Then the war veteran died. Then Shirley’s parents came in.
While he was explaining this at length, another five people left. I began counting the seconds until I could join them. Do not watch this show.