“That was a good joke”, deadpans Andrew O’Neill, “for those of you who got it.” And, indeed, that could perhaps be the subtitle for his show this year; a carefully constructed hour of optimistic energy that’s densely packed with jokes both slapstick and intellectual. O’Neill is a strong and assured comic, a performer who’s confidently content in his own niche. Not every joke sticks the landing with every punter, but the quality of material on offer here is so high that the hit-to-miss ratio is pretty darn good for even the most difficult-to-please.
O’Neill really knows his craft, and his clever punchlines and elegant setups garner murmurs of admiration as often as they elicit belly laughs. A self-indulgently melodramatic opening section is soon justified within the context of the show, and O’Neill unashamedly offers his personal worldview without ever becoming preachy or smug. He knows his audience, and the Liquid Rooms Warehouse is on his side from the very start. O’Neill revels in it, clearly enjoying every moment of shared mutual silliness.
He’s alarming and endearing at the same time, stalking the stage like the B-movie hybrid of Alice Cooper and Harry Hill – a sort of long-haired metal wild child that you’d happily bring home to meet your mother. O’Neill is legitimately talented musician, and is obviously more musically competent than a lot of acts who use a “cheating stick” (as the guitar is jokingly referred to by many non-musical comedians). To some extent, O’Neill has his cake and fills his belly with it too, by changing the words to popular songs ostensibly just to prove that it’s hack. He’s smart enough not to make too much of it, though, moving on almost as soon as the joke has been realised.
The more esoteric and experimental parts of the show are bolstered by some genuinely strong traditional observational gags. While the show lacks a strong conclusion, it’s still a very satisfying hour in O’Neill’s confident hands.