Stand-up comedy can be a very demanding form of performance. It’s solo, placing the entire burden of success or failure on the individual, and it’s instantly gratifying (in the form of laughter), which is rewarding, as long as they laugh. It’s also a very particular form of performance, with rhythms and structures that aren’t found in other types of comedy.
The disconnect between character and plot is fatal for this production.
Solo performer Phil Barnes is clearly an accomplished actor: his delivery, movement enunciation and emotional range prove his chops beyond doubt. But I find it hard to believe that his character is a comic, even a new one. During the sections in which he was ‘performing’, the rhythms of his delivery still sounded like a dramatic monologue. This extended to his audience rapport. Though I’m sure interaction would be improved with a bigger audience than we had during my viewing, Barnes fails to imitate the way in which comics interact with their audience.
He’s not helped by the writing. Ron Aldridge has an interesting story to tell, one that genuinely surprises. But he doesn’t seem to know which parts of his story are important. At the Fringe, where everything is being cut to fit inside harsh time constraints, it is shocking to see side plots and characters that don’t effect the story in any meaningful way. The script would be substantially stronger if 15 minutes shorter. And he, too, seems not to know what kind of character he’s dealing with. Though Barnes’s character has jokes that he tells, his normal speech is oddly serious for a man who wants to be funny for a living. And, though clearly a character choice, it is disappointing to see the humour so often fall back on ‘my wife’ jokes, which I haven’t seen done so sincerely since I went searching through 1950’s editions of The New Yorker.
My Dog’s Got No Nose fails because it depends on a character that neither the writer nor performer know enough about. Worse, the stand-up element doesn’t tie in thematically or substantively to the other elements of the plot. It would work much the same if he was a poet, or painter, or puppeteer. The disconnect between character and plot is fatal for this production.