JESUS is a Cockney and transvestites have magical powers ... or is that unicorns?
Welcome to the world of Andrew O'Neill, a self-proclaimed heavy metal-vegan-transvestite who couldn't possibly be more alternative.
A striking man with long black hair, hipster glasses, skirt and killer red lipstick, O'Neill had his audience of loyal comedy fans in stitches.
His technique of repeating, yet slightly changing a joke until it went beyond funny to uncomfortable and then, well, kind of pointless, was a hit with the crowd.
He's quick, he's energetic and he's got every minority group covered.
Audience participation was kept to a minimum, ideal for nervous comedy fans, but be warned - nothing is sacred.
For a guy who doesn’t believe in God, Andrew O’Neill really knows how to invoke a bit of evil. His stand-up routine is friendly enough, full of gentle jokes about spiders in the swimming pool and the odd Cockney music hall song. But it’s studded with unsettling micro-stories about men with crab claws for hands, delivered in menacing asides to singled-out audience members.
Then there’s his penchant for spinning out a joke until he finds the very limits of funny, such as miming the writing, enveloping, addressing, stamping and posting of a letter from start to finish, or mapping out a diet plan in which one eats foods in alphabetical order, all the way from A to Z.
A different kind of evil.
O’Neill’s natural habitat is alternative culture. He’s a transvestite (although he prefers the term ‘clothes weirdo’), a metal head and deeply passionate about the politics of gender, class and equality. His material ranges from the absurd to the ranty, mostly hitting all the right notes but occasionally missing – a spot of Christian bashing got maybe half his standard laughs out loud and went on for much too long. But for the most part he kept the pace cracking along brilliantly, cramming a crate load of high quality gags into the hour.
He’s a bit of a shapeshifter, switching from silly duffer to psycho circus ringleader in the blink of an eye. That element of surprise keeps the tone from going stale, but his solid fanbase knows what to expect and laps up every bit. O’Neill knows how to engineer a tight routine, and Alternative is a very satisfying sixty minutes of comedy.
Chuckle factor: 3.5/5
Walking in to the Basement Theatre last night I was hit first of all by the loud, heavy music and secondly by a long-haired chap telling me where to sit.
Growing up a Catholic, I instinctively always avoid the front row. That’s where crazy people sit. Growing up a Kiwi, I avoid the front row at a comedy gig as there’s little I hate more than being embarrassed with any sort of crowd participation. So being told quite assertively to sit up the front caused me somewhat of a mini panic attack.
I needn’t have worried – it was a crucial element contributing to easily one of the better shows I’ve seen at this year’s comedy festival.
That long-haired chap happened to be Andrew O’Neill himself, personally ensuring every audience member sat as close as possible for what turned out to be a very good reason. His manic performance was directed very personally to each and every one of us, with him darting around the stage intently feeding off each of our reactions.
Things got off to an unusual start with O’Neill’s rendition of ‘Jingle Bells’, before a quickfire series of thoughts that introduced his unique combination of humour styles. It took a little while before an early segment on how posh people speak and behave in both England and New Zealand was the first to have me in stiches - but many followed.
His style was relatively skittish and took some getting used to, but once we were warmed up it was thoroughly rewarding. Another stellar early segment revolved around why some forms of comedy just don’t work any more.
O’Neill’s deadpan explanation about the worst thing that has happened to him for being a transvestite is hilarious and one of my favourite jokes in the show, segueing into a segment on how transvestites are misunderstood by countless people across the globe which I found legitimately educational.
The gag I mentioned earlier as being my favourite was probably only mine. One noticeable difference in O’Neill’s routine compared to other comedians I’ve seen this year is that many of his jokes would render a belly-laugh from one audience member and giggles from the rest. The one lone belly-laugher was a different person pretty much every single time.
I have to admit some of his jokes went over my head. O’Neill happily admitted to us mid-performance that may be because they are England references Kiwis won’t understand, or just the fact that they may be references to something that only makes sense to him. I admit that sounds self-indulgent, and it’s hard to explain why it worked - but it did. The man cast some sort of wicked spell over me that had me frequently laughing like a demon, even though some of the time I couldn’t explain why.
Don’t be alarmed if you’re sternly directed to sit in the front row, even if you were raised a Catholic or call yourself a New Zealander. O’Neill didn’t pick on anyone or insult the audience – his tales of cross-dressing, Norse gods, pop culture and the internet are very entertaining and come highly recommended.
Andrew O'Neill is performing at the New Zealand Comedy Festival, visit the official website for further information.
Read more: http://www.3news.co.nz/Andrew-ONeill-review/tabid/418/articleID/253640/Default.aspx#ixzz1uPtUrNQU
I'll be honest - I was expecting something pretty bizarre.
My knowledge of British comic Andrew O'Neill was entirely based on the Comedy Festival booklet, which described him as a "cross-dressing, vegan, steampunk occultist" and included an endorsement by alt-culture darling Neil Gaiman. I was ready to be weirded out.
O'Neill bounded on to the stage with his long black hair flying and his face immaculately made up. He was dressed a bit like me circa my fifth-form goth stage: red pantihose, black miniskirt and metal T-shirt.
And he was weird - occcasionally. He broke into song with no warning and interrupted jokes to lapse into mime acts or funny voices.
But for the other 95 per cent of the time, he was surprisingly, and hilariously, normal. He cracked genial jokes about office jobs, bad TV and swimming at the pool, and made fun of how posh people talk. He was like the class clown - a bit sarcastic but always affable.
Then, when he had the audience eating out of his hand, O'Neill tackled the big issues, starting with cross-dressing.
I'm embarrassed to say I'd assumed the skirt and makeup were a gimmick, but no - O'Neill is a bona fide transvestite (although "I prefer clothes weirdo," he said).
Lots of men liked dressing in a feminine way, he argued, but most of the straight ones hid their proclivities because of the rampant homophobia in our society. (O'Neill, incidentally, is straight and married.)
Our perceptions of gender were bizarre. Why was it ridiculous for a man to wear heels but not a woman? Why was sport considered the ultimate straight-man hobby when it was so blatantly homoerotic?
He also delved into religion ("I'm an atheist, but I'm not a cocky atheist, because I'm a little bit scared I'm wrong.") and the dumbing down of entertainment, keeping the audience in stitches while he put across some very intelligent, well considered opinions.
O'Neill is a supremely talented comedian who needn't be relegated to cult icon status.
He is relateable, but he's also a rare breed among comics (and people in general). He makes no apologies for who he is - I can't remember a single self-deprecating joke - and he doesn't dumb down his humour.
He's a metal-loving, lipstick-wearing Everyman, and if you don't like it, well... I'd be very surprised.
Details: Andrew O'Neill perfoms in Wellington at the Cavern Club from May 1 to 5 and in Auckland at The Basement from May 7 to 12.
Looking like a petite, mini-skirted goth girl but sounding like a right geezer, Andrew O'Neill holds your attention from the get-go.
It's a mash-up of rapid-fire observations, flights of fancy, non sequiturs and absurd mime from a confident and polished performer.
Lengthy monologues on his transvestism and cross dressing plus daft nonsense like coming face to face with a drowned spider in the swimming pool are interspersed with abrupt segues into pantomime characterisations or a casual step up onto his "overheard box" where he repeats snippets of (presumably) conversations he's eavesdropped on.
His acolytes loved him. I liked him.
Andrew O'Neill is easily distracted and he told us so. He arrived onstage dressed as a female extra from The Big Bang Theory in a fetching dress, Doc Martins, tights, glasses and lipstick. His was a collection of interlocked anecdotes about the poor artistic decisions of rich people (take Metallica, for example!), post people and their obscure mannerisms, the legal implications of using cotton buds for ear wax removal, the discovery of dead “great white spiders” in the Adelaide aquatic centre, and the magical powers possessed by transvestites, of which he admitted openly to being one of. O'Neill's mix of humour, humanity and politics reminded me of a young Ben Elton; if you closed your eyes and the voice was similar, too. He had a few moments of preaching, interspersed by odd little gothic quotes from some fictitious steam punk novella, which broke tension and raised the heckles for the next outburst. The packed room never drew breath for laughing so hard, the mirrors had steamed up to writing point.