Ewen Gilmour is a veteran of the Comedy Festival. This is his 15th year as a performer and over that time his Westie persona and matching sense of humour have become familiar on the wider Kiwi comedy stage.
So, given his opening night was far from a debut, perhaps you could forgive Gilmour for seeming just a little tired. That is not to say he was unenthusiastic or disinterested, but the show got off to a slow start and much of the subject matter was unsurprising – ample jokes about drinking, marijuana and sex acts, as is his fare.
But as Gilmour and the crowd warmed up, the jokes began to include some surprisingly visceral emotions as well; lines that struck like a jalapeño in an otherwise plain meal.
This year his show is titled S’truth and he made a point of emphasising that he had tried to base the jokes around true stories. Some of those truths turned out to be more difficult than others.
Just over a year ago, Gilmour's wife died after several years of care and treatment for brain cancer. Rather than avoiding the subject in his act, he made several references to his pain, albeit mostly rounded off with punch-lines.
"I lost my wife," he recounted saying to his doctor, who had mentioned fellow comedian Mike King's struggle with depression to encourage Gilmour to seek help himself. "He just lost his drug dealer. I’ve still got my dealer!”
At times, the crowd seemed uncertain how much to laugh at these jokes. Undeterred, Gilmour went on to talk about crying over his wife's passing, living alone and, briefly but ferociously, his anger at God.
Was this the emergence of an existential Westie? The Shakespearean bogan, as pioneered by Outrageous Fortune? Probably not; instead it seemed more like the man we've laughed with for a decade and a half working through his anguish by the medium he knows best – stand-up comedy.
As he closed the show on a puerile joke involving male genitalia, it was clear this was still a Ewen Gilmour show, the sort his audience came for and undoubtedly loved. But as they applauded, they were left with some serious truths as well. S’truth.
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