Stand-up comedy and theatre rarely interact in meaningful ways. They are, of course, completely separate genres, with their own conventions and accepted formats. But what if there was a play about a stand up comic’s rise and fall? Doing that justice would mean incorporating elements of both, and infusing them into one story. This is what
Happy and funny may stand in opposition, but The Last Laugh was funny enough to leave me happy.
Eddie Butler is on his revival tour, and he’s drawn big crowds to see if he’ll melt down again. His onstage reminiscences become full reenactments of his tumultuous, ruinous relationship with “Amazing” Grace.
The script is witty and clever, while still having real ideas. Happiness and humour clash in thought-provoking ways - and the show is, for a piece that fuses genres in the way that it does, remarkably well-structured as a piece of theatre. If there is a misstep in the writing, it’s the use of feminist comedy as a theme without doing much with it, which could be used to make unkind readings of parts of the story. This was far from damning though, and for the most part, the comedy deftly avoided straying too close to ‘the line’ except for those very specific sections when it wanted to offend.
Keir McAllister performs admirably as Butler. His intelligence and self-deprecating charm come across well, particularly in his dialogue sections. But his monologues could have been delivered more quickly. As it was, a lot of his bits sounded more like a TED talk than a stand-up show.
He is joined by Larah Bross as Grace, his girlfriend/ex-girlfriend/friend/enemy. She is funny and vivid in that character, but she doubles as Charley, Butler’s manager. Charley’s dialogue is brilliant, but the character is very English, an accent that the Canadian Bross clearly struggled to maintain.
Comics are essentially dysfunctional, Butler argues in his opening monologue. But they’re also perfect fodder for a comedy with something to say. Happy and funny may stand in opposition, but The Last Laugh was funny enough to leave me happy.