The premise of this show is one to which everyone can relate; the frustration with products and services that promise much and deliver little.
Dear Epson is the clever and bitingly sarcastic letter we all should have written to so many companies, if only we’d had the time and energy.
Opening with a few digs at Perth and the impossibility of getting a meal after 8.30pm in the city on a Monday night and that a bagel costs $8.00. “Is it a famous bagel?” Danny Bhoy went on to mercilessly shred the reputations of Oil of Olay (Ulan) and Clinique and their claims of age reversal and anti-gravity creams.
To enormous crowd approval he tore into Telstra and Indian call centres. “I’m not sure how much of this show is valid criticism or just a man having a good time.”
His exploits at a German Christmas Fair were perfect fodder for a "don’t mention the war” gag. And some remarkably funny observations about spending the last of your foreign currency at the end of the holiday.
His Dear Islamic World letter was discarded. “I’m not that much of an idiot!”
Moving on to his favourite foods, canapés, proved a winner as did the idiocy of fine dining establishments' insistence on the wearing of a coat.
An interest in the history of candles led to the display of an antique candle snuffer and its uses. Thence to the incredible hyperbole used to describe voguish scented candles. Displayed onstage was an upmarket Molton Brown candle (“mysterious, an enchanting blend, on the edge of a wooded forest at midnight!’): it cost thirty six pounds fifty and smelt of wet grass.
Ticketmaster and its incredibly silly request for a customer to transcribe the code in wavy letters got a serve. “Perhaps when write to them I might put the whole letter in wavy letters.”
Danny Bhoy then affected a serious mode and waxed lyrical about a 3 day love affair in New York. So profound was the effect upon the audience you could hear a pin drop! The demise of this affair led to another letter. Not to the object of his affection but to another so-called service provider. It was a brilliant set up and worked a treat!
There several references to his childhood and the awful and cruel woodwork teacher, Mr Dowel, who had predicted his dire career failure so inaccurately.
The reading of a letter written by him to himself as a 13 year old closed the show. Referencing several of his just-recounted stories it provided a neat ending to the proceedings.
The ideas and scripting were excellent and as always Danny Bhoy displayed wonderful timing and ability to create sympathy as well as laughter.
Dear Epson… is quite different from Danny Bhoy’s previous shows but still has all the hallmarks of what fans have grown to expect and love at a his gigs. After a fleeting too funny “too soon” Anne Frank reference and some friendly banter with the audience, Danny explains to the audience the story behind Dear Epson.
A year ago, Danny purchased an Epson printer only to realize soon after that the ink required was more expensive than the printer itself. Infuriated by this absurdity, an irate Danny took to pen and paper and wrote a letter of complaint to the printer company, demanding an explanation. This letter sparked a snowball effect and soon he found himself writing to other corporations that have angered him over the years. Oil of Olay (formerly Oil of Ulay), Vodafone, British Airways – Danny shows them no mercy, exposing them for their empty marketing promises.
Danny is a gifted and skilled storyteller and excellent wordsmith – he effortlessly has the audience hanging on to his every word through his natural gift of the gab and irresistible charm. The letters of complaint are brilliantly crafted prose; compelling, witty and delivered flawlessly. After letter number three, Danny takes a breather and assures us that the show is “not all ranting and raving”.
In between the collection of letters, Danny also treats us with entertaining and hilarious stories from his life, like the awkward encounter he had with a German shopkeeper when he was Christmas shopping, his determination to not be bested by a waiter at a Michelin-star restaurant and my personal favourite, his amusing but oh-so-true “rules of receiving canapés”.
Dear Epson… is observational comedy at its best and this time with added cleverly channelled consumer rage. Laughter really is the best medicine and Danny Bhoy is the perfect remedy.
There have been quite a few recent shows using letters to frame a comedy narrative. In this respect, Danny Bhoy’s Dear Epson, which is currently touring following a run at the Fringe, is easily comparable to Tom Wrigglesworth’s Open Letters series on BBC Radio 4. Both comics read aloud their letters addressed to well-known companies or industries to explore and expose insane inconsistencies and inequalities.
In contrast to Wrigglesworth’s single-issue approach, though, Bhoy’s letters are presented as a series of vignettes that provide a loose framework for more general stand-up. Despite the show’s title, only a fraction of Dear Epson is actually directed at the eponymous supplier of dubiously-priced printer consumables. As Bhoy informs us, marketing people scour the internet ready to fire legally-threatening emails, so it’s probably best to repeat Bhoy’s point; that the cost of buying ink cartridges can be more expensive than the printer itself, but that is not a problem unique to this brand.
There are quite a few targets, and, while he is not exactly the first comedian to have a go at Easyjet’s often-incredulous procedures and admin fees, Bhoy hits the right notes every time. He doesn’t aim for the political intensity of someone like Mark Thomas, but Dear Epson has a subversive edge. There’s a heart-warming feeling knowing that a comedy show is ruffling corporate feathers.
Bhoy is a very likable, personable chap, sympathising with the crowd about the pitfalls of midweek comedy. He’s warm and relatively inoffensive, with the moments of invective fully justified. The tale about a failed romance is all the more accessible and alluring without drama or hyperbole, and like the gripes against the companies, its mundaneness is its strength.
I was worried how comments about Leith, a district of Edinburgh, would be received now that the show has flown the nest of the Fringe. Was it well-known enough to get a reaction in venues that weren’t a local bus journey away? Perhaps it was because of the atmosphere that he’s engineered, or the intelligence Bhoy assumes in his audience, that the laughs came anyway.
Dear Epson is an engaging little show. It may have fundamental similarities to other work, but the world is so mad and corporations are so greedy that we need people like Bhoy to poke sticks at the big companies and rattle their capitalist cages.
I suspect a larger audience beckons, and deservedly so; even if it is just to single-handedly bring back Roast Beef Monster Munch.
Scottish comedian Danny Bhoy has been a regular to the International NZ Comedy Festival for many years now and has never disappointed; but his latest show Dear Epson may well be his best work yet.
The premise of the evening is set with the tale of his discovery that the ink of a newly bought printer costs more than the printer itself. Enraged Bhoy sat down and composed a letter of complaint.
For the next almost 90 minutes he rips into companies on a crusade to denounce those that want to lure us with unsatisfiable advertising promises and whose services have disappointed and annoyed us too often.
Although the reading of letters to give a performance a framework and poking fun at bad customer service are not particular unique ideas for a comedian, in Bhoy's hands they turn into a weapon that leaves the notoriously coy New Zealand audience in a mess of roaring laughter.
Bhoy is trailing off into extended stories about awkward encounters on German Christmas markets ("don't mention the war"), odious teachers, childhood holidays and his first (and only) love that seem to spontaneously pop up in his head.
But all along he is like a puppet master who gives his ponderings enough string to enfold before he pulls them all back to end with an even bigger punch line.
One thing that sets him apart from many comedians is that he never drifts into vulgarity and crassness. His demenour is warm, a bit understated, and charming (his Scottish accent and good looks don't hurt either), his humour is observational and intellegent and his timing always on the spot.
Bhoy is an effortless raconteur, and a critique of society who puts his finger where things things go wrong. He points at nuisances and grievances we're all familiar with and turns them into hilarious skits.
Another important part of his success is his ability to connect with the audience. He starts with a little banter, picking on some poor chaps in the front row, to which he always comes back and adds a little bit of local flavour here and there.
He ends it by asking the audience whom he should write a letter to next and can hardly believe that we have an ad telling us we now need coloured mild bottles because our cows aren't see-through either. That's something even he couldn't have make up.
And then he reads one last letter. One that I don't want to give away here, but this one sums up why his show is such a success.
It's witty, it seems personal and touching, it brings all we've heard in the last 90 minutes together and most of all it gives us one huge laugh at the end of a thoroughly satisfying comedy night (in which we again fell a little bit in love with Bhoy).
Comedy, particularly stand-up, is extremely subjective. The funniest thing in the world to you may be a complete waste of time to someone else, and this is completely unpredictable. It therefore can be very hard to successfully recommend a comedy show even to the people you know best.
I believe that Danny Bhoy is the closest thing to an exception to this rule that exists. Casting one's eye around his average audience reveals people of all ages and demographics, and it takes about ten minutes to figure out why. He is neither arrogant nor self-deprecating. His language is crude, but he is never really rude or unpleasant. He is irreverent, but in a way that only seems to endear his audience more. Danny has a style of humour that combines clever observations and engaging story-telling, covering everything from cats, to planes, to French romance, to grain versus corn-fed chickens, to female clubbing rituals, to the lethal Scottish diet, and pretty much anything and everything else. Everyone can find something in his shows to relate to, and his enthralling and energetic story-telling style has a way of blocking out the world outside the theatre for the entire time he is on stage.
His comedic career began in 1998 in Edinburgh, Scotland. He immediately found success, and finally burst onto the Australian comedy scene in 2003 at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, where he has been wooing Australian audiences since.
He comes out routinely for every second Comedy Festival, and on the last few visits he has topped it off with a regional tour, bringing the Festival to those who may not be able to get to it. This extensive experience and time spent touring is perhaps why he seems to slip on his stage persona like a comfortable old pair of trakky-dacks, and is so much in his element when he is standing under blinding lights in front of hundreds of people that he makes a fish in water look awkward.
Whilst he has always seemed completely at ease onstage, over the last few years his shows have changed and seemingly matured along an interesting pathway. Dear Epson, I believe, is his best show yet.
Inspired by the realisation that his printer ink refills were more expensive than his printer and the letter he found himself writing to Epson addressing this, Danny goes on to produce an onslaught of angry letters to commercial entities that he believes have wronged him or society in an enthralling 1.5 hour crusade. Following tangents into segments of his usual brand of observational and anecdotal-style humour, he returns to his crusade intermittently with a completely natural flow. The entire show is laced with his unique layered wit and super-human sarcastic capabilities, combined with a starkly contrasting complete lovability. The only real problem with the show is that it barely leaves the audience enough time to refill their lungs before the next big laugh.
DANNY Bhoy is one of the bigger names of the festival, confidently selling out the Playhouse on opening night. It's easy to see why he can draw such a big crowd - he's a likeable guy, charming and warmly funny with an understated confidence.
Dear Epson is an extended show (clocking in at 80 fast-paced minutes) built around a series of complaint letters to various companies including Epson, Clinique, Telstra and Jetstar.
It starts with Bhoy's outrage at the ridiculously high cost of printer ink and spirals from there.
In some ways the premise feels too easy, but it does create an accessible framework for a cohesive show. Alternating between reading the missives from a desk and addressing the audience in relaxed stand-up mode, Bhoy strings together familiar consumer gripes with tangential personal anecdotes about first love, obsessions with canapes and an invitation to an Irish-American comedy festival.
The set-up creates a smooth context to bang on about the ridiculousness of things like "anti-gravity" face cream or candles that smell like imp whispers (whatever they are...), irritating airline fees and the mis-representation of Sydney real estate prices on a board game. Not that Dear Epson is a whinge-fest - he's more befuddled by it all than anything else.
When asked what he could write a letter of complaint about in Melbourne, Myki was the first thing hollered out of every punter's lips. Don't be surprised if that turns up in the script later in the season.
Dear Epson has plenty of hearty laughs without being offensive and an easy style that is relatable to a mixed audience. And of course, Bhoy's Scottish accent doesn't hurt either.