Over IT - Death, Anorexia, Other Funny Things

Mon 5th – Sun 25th August 2013


James Cetkovski

at 09:45 on 7th Aug 2013



When I talk about ‘Over It – Death, Anorexia, and Other Funny Things’ I’m going to try to comment on Dave Chawmers and Robyn Perkins as performers and not as people. This is challenging because they’re talking about intimate, traumatic, true-life experiences, and the danger is that judgments about their stories will be interpreted as judgments about the experiences that these stories narrate. Please do not interpret them this way.

This show is really two shows—Chawmers talks about his teenage experience as a straight male anorexic for half an hour and then Perkins fills the rest of the time with the story of her boyfriend's death three years ago. The connection between the two halves isn’t really made clear, beyond the seriousness of the subject matter.

The lesson here might be that it’s really, really hard to turn discussions of anorexia and death into compelling stand-up. I wouldn’t recommend either of these routines as entertainment. They’d be tremendously engaging health lectures but as comedy they don’t quite work.

Chawmers is radiantly cheerful and open, but his enthusiasm is stronger than his comedy. The most engaging part of his set is a thoughtful commentary on the relationship between fatness, thinness, and humour—he argues fatness is considered ripe material for comedy while thinness is not, and he’s right. His personal history is interesting but he doesn’t do a particularly good job of making it funny—‘This girl was like Audrey Hepburn except not dead,’ he says about his first real girlfriend. ‘She was the total package—not that I ordered her online.’ Hmm.

Perkins is even more open; this turns out not to be a good thing. Her story spends more time with sexual history than any other topic; it’s repetitive and it’s usually too much information. ‘Look how liberated and comfortable with sexuality I am,’ every tale seems to plead; a male comedian with a routine like this would be rightly accused of relying on laddish cliché. ‘I know I have great tits and I expect to be complimented on them,’ sets up one joke. Sex is important, she says, and who in the twenty-first century would disagree? Not I. But is it everything?

Just about, in her telling, though occasionally the sex material is deft and touching. What do you do with the lingerie that your dead boyfriend bought you? If you keep it it’s a bit weird—how do you explain it to the next man on the scene?—but you can’t throw it out because ‘That shit’s expensive.’ Her finest moments examine the surreal humour latent in the bizarre binds and situations created by the death of a beloved.

After her boyfriend died, Perkins says, ‘the world broke me in ways I didn’t know I could be broken.’ I don’t doubt it in the slightest. I’m sure she suffered in ways that were utterly unbearable, absolutely excruciating. I’m desperately sorry she had to endure it. But unfortunately, she’s unable to translate this suffering into compelling performance.


Kate Wilkinson

at 10:11 on 7th Aug 2013



You could easily detract the ‘other funny things’ from the title of this show as death and anorexia really were the only two topics discussed. This was a stand-up show split in half between two different comics, David Chawmer and Robyn Perkins. Perkins introduced the show, drawing attention to the serious nature of their content and insisting that the audience feel comfortable laughing about it. Her loud and confident tone dispelled any fears of a tense show and so put the audience at ease.

Chawmer took the first half hour and addressed the taboo topic of anorexia- as he called the ‘a bomb’- by discussing his own experience with the illness when he was younger. The mortified reactions that he has come across successfully illustrated the awkwardness that surrounds the issue, particularly among men. His perceptions about people and their relation to weight and humour rang particularly true. Whilst it’s easy to joke about fatness, thinness is never a topic for comedy. And with that observation I asked myself, has Chawmer made thinness, or anorexia, or indeed anything funny? Answer: sometimes. When he asked the audience for donations at the end (it was a free show) he quipped ‘one of us has got to eat’.

Throughout his gig, Chawmer maintained a charming and light-hearted persona, constantly making self-mocking references to himself and his anorexia. Despite this, many of his jokes were uninspiring and though he raised a few laughs, more thought is needed to develop his jokes further.

Perkins took over for the second half hour. There was really nothing linking these two stand-ups, so I am obliged to critique them separately (despite the shared review). Her demeanour was very American, very confident and very chatty- something that some may find a bit grating. I wasn’t particularly bothered by it although more endearment could have helped. Perkins displayed strong storytelling skills and illustrated her experience of grief for the death of her boyfriend rather touchingly with quirky, personal details. For anyone to tackle such a devastating event, great courage is required. As a prelude to her experience of grief, Perkins describes her love life, which I felt was less successful. As with Chawmer, however, the main problem was the laugh-rate; it just wasn’t there.

Both these stand-ups might have done better in a different context. Chawmer’s desire to raise awareness about anorexia is worthy and if he refined his material a little, his show could really work as it is. As separate stand-ups, the two could have done with their own show. Potential is there, but refinement is needed.


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