Daniel Nils Roberts, cast member of the hit improv show Austentatious, is no longer constraining himself to just the Regency period. Instead, in his new solo show The History of the World in 1 Hour, he’s aiming to, well, cover the history of the world in one hour (actually, he only has 50 minutes, due to Underbelly timetabling issues).
There are a couple of false starts, which prompt the audience to wonder whether we’re actually going to get the history of the world at all – maybe this will just be an hour of meta-comedy (not a bad thing by any means, as Roberts captures the “slightly confused performer” trope flawlessly) – but suddenly we’re thrown into a whirlwind tour of the Big Bang, dinosaurs, and Egyptians, complete with 300 individual Powerpoint slides.
It’s obvious that a lot of effort has gone into History of the World in 1 Hour, and it all pays off: the visual gags and wordplay are excellent, and Roberts has got recurring jokes down to a fine art. The show is also surprisingly kid-friendly despite some adult jokes; the general silliness, as well as Roberts’ infectious energy, definitely plays into this.
The main issue with this show is Roberts’ pacing – you can either choose to shoot rapid, quickfire jokes and power through without caring if they land, or you can deliver them normally and wait for the audience to laugh. Roberts does a mix of both: he tells an offhand joke and then pauses for us to catch up, which leads to a stilted performance at some points. There’s also a little too much audience participation, halting the momentum he’s so cleverly built up with his increasingly speedy timeline. The quizzes are a nice segue to other jokes, but other segments feel a little like Roberts is outsourcing his humour to the audience – he’s funny enough without needing to rely on this.
Roberts has created an educational, entertaining, and very cleverly-constructed show. There isn’t necessarily something for everyone, but if you’re a pun fan, a history buff, or just in need of a good chuckle, History of the World in 1 Hour will definitely scratch that itch.