Corporations peddle us a lot of crap in the name of “valuing our custom” – smiley face rating machines in public toilets, signs talking to us like we’re their friends, customer service bumf welcoming us to the “family”. John Gordillo dissects the sinister capitalist motives behind this, while also questioning his own dark, acquisitive instincts that lie behind addictions to property porn, and … well… actual porn.
Gordillo comes at us like a hip psychology lecturer: bespectacled, urbane, white shirt rakishly unbuttoned. He has the tools of a lecturer too – a slide show, a lectern, realia taken from hotel rooms. He makes his points wittily. Why are Virgin so insistent on us telling them the reason for our journey? What the hell does the serene sleeping woman on his hotel “do not disturb” sign have to do with what he’s getting up to in there? What is the real implication of Pret A Manger telling us they give their sandwiches to the homeless? It’s sophisticated comedy which treats its audience as equals. There’s not much verbal interaction, but he responds to the room in other ways.
A large chunk of the show is about TripAdvisor, specifically people who rate natural wonders as if they are experiences which can be improved, rather than perfect in and of themselves. There are probably more egregious examples of TripAdvisor idiocy than the ones he has selected, but he plays well with what he’s got. There’s a lot about the pointlessness of star ratings in these cases too, though he doesn’t get to second guess reviewers that easily; he’s a good comic, he’s not an area of natural beauty.
Love Capitalism takes a very dark, personal turn when he introduces his own sex addiction. Pornography led to sex dating led to escorts led to tensions in his recent marriage. One guy finds it uproarious; others are left shuffling uncomfortably in their seats. Because it’s not even really mined for laughs, it’s mined for the point it makes about capitalists breaking into our psyche. In comedy terms, it’s a weak spot of the show – he even has to explain that more jokes will be along soon – and it only fleshes out the basic arc of the show, rather than being a keystone of it. It creates a sinister interlude between the corporate-speak and TripAdvisor reviews, and the video finale which resolves it all, although there’s a certain vicarious thrill in peering into his life.
This is not your usual “Starbucks is shit and doesn’t pay taxes” capitalist takedown. It aims at the more invasive ways it has found to break into us since the banking crash. It’s a clever bit of comedy, and if it weren’t for the jarring porn interlude, or if it were co-opted more into the main argument, or if Gordillo looked a bit more convinced himself that it should be part of the show, it would be even better.