Gerry Howell: Parrot Fashion Accessories (Oxfringe)

Fri 8th – Sat 9th June 2012


Xandra Burns

at 10:09 on 9th Jun 2012



Gerry Howell is like that quiet friend who is occasionally unexpectedly funny, but only after a moment of processing. Except, Gerry Howell is a comedian (an "award-winning" comedian). The audience expects funny, which causes him to lose half of his charm. He stutters, mumbles, and fidgets with his velvet jacket constantly. He's a bit self-deprecating, a bit awkward, and these qualities are all okay - but the contrasting tone of his humor is jarring, and a lot of his prepared pieces are just not that funny.

He wanders onstage, stumbling over his words until he lands on: "Welcome to…me." Appreciative chuckling at his acknowledgement of the way stand-up comedy is set up - yes, we are here to see… "him." During the introduction, audience members are each given raffle tickets because - "now write this down, students," he instructs, so I do - "The greatest pleasure in life is the pleasure of anticipation." Okay. Let's use this as means of transition - I took much pleasure in anticipating the use of parrot fashion accessories in this show, as the title promised, and sadly, there were neither parrots nor fashion accessories, nor a delightful combination of the two. Instead Howell brushed the title aside with the first couple of minutes, dismissing it as random. "Like life." Disappointed.

Howell structures his show around short stories from a large volume that he calls his "self-published book." At first he inserts the names of audience members, but after the first two stories this is abandoned. Perhaps it was planned that way, perhaps he decided to give up on trying to remember the names after several failed attempts. Nonetheless, his banter with the audience members who doubled as characters in his stories was among the best parts of the show. The remaining short stories are less entertaining, causing my attention to focus instead on the soundtrack that accompanied each story, cued in by a sound op named Percy.

Howell seems to favor bookish nerd humor, with an anecdote about his public library, claims to be an author, and jokes related to atoms. It is strange, therefore, when his humor suddenly turns crude or sexual. Or, later on, when he jokes about how no one has time for reading or that his favorite book is the Dictionary. "The Dictionary - who wrote that?" is supposed to be a joke, but to a 2nd year English student it sounded like a Paper 1 title. Lexicography is no laughing matter.

There are some great moments, such as a description of playing musical chairs with his deaf grandmother, and some great one-liners. They occur so sporadically and unexpectedly that it's easy to zone out and miss them. In the end, I do have to give him credit for following through with the raffle prizes. By the finale I have almost warmed up to him, and it seems that the audience feels the same. But by that point it's too late.


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