The title of Pierre Novellie’s show is somewhat misleading. Novellie is anxious about many things – his name not suiting him, his unusual multicultural background and his insomnia, among other things – but the way in which he presents the trials and tribulations of his life is anything but uncertain. Novellie is a charismatic and friendly character, who speaks with great warmth even about his most harrowing moments, such as his face being stolen by the Chinese (that is explained in the show, I won’t spoil it for you here).
Society is in need of many improvements, but Novellie’s set isn’t.
Starting with the unusual nature of his name in comparison to his physical appearance, Novellie goes on to explain more about his history and that of his family. He is not at all happy, and in fact rather embarrassed, that he is South African rather than Italian American because of a trick played on his ancestors in the 19th century, and resentful of the burden he feels he has been saddled with as a white African man; quite a contradiction in terms. Novellie talks about growing up in Johannesburg, discussing the differences between South African and British humour, the security of his house and, most memorably, the dubbing of children’s TV, where he regaled us with the Spiderman theme song and some narration in comically broken English.
Novellie transitions smoothly from talking about his childhood to discussing his adult life as a comedian with insomnia, exploring such topics as twenty four hour newsagents, home-made food and Tinder. Although I feel the latter section has been somewhat overdone, it was amusing nevertheless, as Novellie explains how previously he did not know photography was an art form, as well as making some amusing references for the geeks in the audience comparing the average height of women in South Africa and women in the UK. For me, however, as a student of medieval history, the highlight of Novellie’s set was the part in which he talked about his degree in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic Studies and imagined a conversation, voices and all, between a Christian missionary and a Viking called Bjorn whom the missionary wished to convert. As well as this, Novellie’s comparison of different depictions of Jesus was clever, and led later on to a brilliant, if rather strange, conversation with Chinese Jesus about the meaning of life.
Novellie’s anxiety did return in the final section of his show, however, as he tried to summarise what we could take away from his show. He explains that comedy is a reflection of the society in which it is performed, so if we don’t like what we see, could we please exempt him from blame? I would do so happily; society is in need of many improvements, but Novellie’s set isn’t.