When will Joanne Harouni get to do the Ted Talk she deserves?
She is incredibly charming and witty
In an unusual standup routine, Harouni devotes her hour-long performance to stories about her multifaceted father and lessons on emotional growth. You don’t change people’s beliefs by shouting at them, you change them through positive exposure to new cultures and moral codes. This is a beautiful message for a politically divided society, but it doesn’t necessarily fulfil the comedy requirement.
If this performance were being reviewed as spoken word, storytelling or motivational speaking, it would potentially get top marks—humour is always an added bonus in those genres. But as a comic routine it falls a bit short of the mark. Granted, we’re nearing the end of the Fringe and performers are running out of steam, and that’s the impression we get from Harouni as she cruises through her well-structured set. This is a tight performance, but there isn’t a lot of energy, or that essential freshness audiences desire. It’s the duty of a comedian to take us through their routine as if these jokes have just popped into their mind and are being verbalised for the first time. If it sounds like a script being rattled off with scheduled pauses for laughter, it dampens the mood of the audience and lowers the tone of the whole show.
Harouni’s performance is consistent and well rehearsed. She is incredibly charming and witty, bringing the audience on side straight away, and eliciting a few big laughs during the show. But the rest of the time, she must be content with mid-level chuckles. There are no awkward silences, not with this cruise control, but there are a few pregnant pauses—particularly after Harouni describes in detail the horrific car accident she was involved in.
There are comedians who mix poignant stories into their material and get away with it, but we need to be crying with laughter before we will be on board with other kinds of crying. With the right fine tuning, Harouni might be considered to be redefining the genre. For now it feels like a fascinating and amusing mini biography of her family and how they supported her through the most difficult chapter of her life. Inspiring and captivating? Yes, absolutely. Side-splitting, knee-slapping comedy? Not so much.