John Smythe - Theatreview.org.nz'You wouldn't suspect, from looking at him, that Harper once aspired to be a wrestler. His family and childhood friends and foes also slip in, as always, to the deceptively meandering narrative...'open/close
As revealed in his publicity, i & i show is a direct response to Joseph's being mugged: “This big guy jacked me in the head and broke my eye socket. My cheek swelled up like an egg was growing in my face.” It happened in Auckland's Avondale, the assailant was Māori and has since achieved his 15 seconds of fame on telly for something else.
The issues all this throws up for a liberal-minded white boy – and most of his audience – are at the heart of this show and give it real guts. The title – i & i – has a Rastafarian resonance and, by the way, Harper cracks out a mean Rasta accent mon.
There are other surprises in the hour too, both vocal and physical. You wouldn't suspect, from looking at him, that Harper once aspired to be a wrestler. His family and childhood friends and foes also slip in, as always, to the deceptively meandering narrative. And pretty well every apparently parenthetical comment turns out to support his thematic structure.
It does have to be said his pop-culture references are rooted in his formative years as a child and adolescent which seems to limit his audience to his own age group. But for others it's an opportunity to expand our understanding of this generation. Even so, if he ever aspired to filling larger venues for longer seasons, and graduating from the Koha deal (which pretty well justifies whatever he chooses to do), Harper may need to be aware that not everyone is familiar with his pop culture touchstones.
Read more here:
Liv Barnett - Macandmae.com'This stand-up performance was dynamic and witty, with constant sarcastic meta-narrative of the show and his performance to make Harper distinctly likeable...'open/close
As I left the room and congratulated Joseph on making me laugh so much I came close to wetting myself, he revealed he has been doing stand up for the last five years. Yet he gave the convincing impression of being a beginner. In the intimate and cosy venue of the Wine Cellar, he got the audience on side by playing shy, geeky and cheeky. Pleasing to the eye with his retro attire; big, metal-framed glasses and old-school running shoes, it was apt for Harper to be performing on k-road. He appears to be one of the few kiwi comedians to weave together multiple forms of every day humour and popular culture with intellectual genres of ethics, society and existential philosophy, even dropping in a bit of John Locke.
This stand-up performance was dynamic and witty, with constant sarcastic meta-narrative of the show and his performance to make Harper distinctly likeable. Harper strung together a series of stories including being beaten up in Avondale and pretending to be an Italian heavy-weight wrestler as a kid (ripping his nipples on his trampoline in the meantime). Yet the story that had me laughing most was his becoming a fourteen year old Rastafarian in Wellington. Harper did an impressive job of mixing Shaggy and Jaja Binx, forming his very own Jamaican-come-New Zealand accent inspired by his favourite movie, ‘Cool Runnings’.
Some of his stories were a bit laboured and I struggled stay attentive. Nevertheless the act of ‘dumb and simple’, kind of a bit Napolean Dynamite, was my kind of humour. Especially when he would say smart things that were obviously not the sort of thing a dumb person would say. Anyone who may have lost track in the mix was certainly re-engaged by the end as Harper finished with a crescendo of getting the audience to yell insults at him aggressively. He then swallowed a glass of raw eggs to make him ‘stronger’ and more able to handle it. The grand finale of Harper topless with egg yoke running down his chest was certainly enough to keep me laughing throughout the final round of applause. This scrawny wee white boy seemed to do a clever job of mixing the bizarre and intelligent, leading to the sort of uncontrollable outbursts of laughter that are a mystery to the beholder. I would say he is one to watch, some might even say ‘up and coming’.
Stephen Austin - Theatreview.org.nz'Harper is a slick comedian who seems to be reaching his best material and eliciting laughter by simply stating the facts of his experience in the most directly shambolic, screwed-up way he knows how. 'open/close
Joseph Harper has a pretty serious story to tell.
Despite growing up in Christchurch with a pacifist father and embracing the ideals of Rastafarianism and John Locke's philosophy of Tabula Rasa, his life has led to fear and violence at most turns.
The inciting event is a severe mugging meted out by three loud, slightly drunk Avondale locals in the middle of a busy rush hour. This left Harper badly injured - major swelling and a nasty lasting chip out of his eye socket – and distrustful of dealing with loud noises and strangers again.
As a seasoned comedian in the Auckland scene, I'd expect that Joseph would be fully confident but he allows himself to exude a distrust and a nervousness that, while at first seeming a bad case of opening night jitters, proves to be absolutely the right delivery for this piece and a great underpinning to his cogent storytelling.
He paces the stage and wrings the bottom of his flannel shirt incessantly, but the nerves are a ruse to distract us from a slickly written, polished piece of craft that brings home the performer's views, experiences and understandings.
He's at his funniest when he's spouting something driven by an anger or fuelled by a determined opinion, but the audience is on his side most of the time anyway and the hour rolls along well.
The climax of our time with him is rewarding for both audience and performer as we're asked to help him confront the fear that is driving the ideas at the core of what he's on about. He engages the space fully at the end and hilariously, and a bit queasily, realises a training montage payoff that he's been building throughout.