Olaf Falafel and The Cheese of Truth

Thu 4th – Sun 28th August 2016

reviews

Laura Whetherly

at 09:28 on 16th Aug 2016

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Making his debut at the Fringe this year, “Sweden’s Eighth Funniest Comedian” Olaf Falafel arrives with a barrage of absurdist humour and sharp one-liners, searching for the answers to some of life’s greatest questions: What is the meaning of life? What does it mean to be a man? Why are Starbursts so juicy?

Building around a series of Vines (the medium that first made him famous), Olaf Falafel’s performance tries to combine a love of one-liners and tight comedy with an overarching narrative about the 'Cheese of Truth', all with a healthy dose of audience participation (audience bullying might be more accurate). It takes a while to get the audience fully on board with Falafel’s off-the-wall style, and a few of the first jokes fall flat. As both Falafel and the audience warm up, though, the show begins to take off and rolls comfortably on towards the conclusion.

The most successful parts of the show are those which deal with pretty banal ideas: judging audience members on how they cut their sandwiches (two rectangles? Nothing more disappointing) or using the dark art of biscuitology to analyse hidden parts of their psyche. The tension when he shows a Vine of an overly-dunked biscuit falling helplessly into a mug of tea is palpable. Less successful is his running joke about calling a member of the audience “Patricia”, and making somebody consume a Babybel with the wax still on.

Falafel himself is utterly likable. His boundless energy and enthusiasm is what carries the show, although it’s clear from the videos that he’s more comfortable behind a screen than in front of it. The 'Cheese of Truth' quoted in the title refers to him throwing pieces of cheese at popular publications and supposedly being able, from this, to pick out the “soul” of the paper – something which works well on screen but not stage. Although Falafel does try to integrate different media, there are unavoidable viewing restrictions at many Fringe venues, and, if you are unable to see all of the videos clearly, the comedy loses its bite.

Olaf Falafel has masses of potential, and the show is a quick-paced, tongue in cheek piece of comedy. However, there’s still some work to be done before Falafel can market himself as a stand up comedian rather than a Vine star.

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Serena Basra

at 10:04 on 16th Aug 2016

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Proclaiming yourself as ‘"Sweden’s Eighth Funniest Comedian" sets the stage for a promising debut, and this is exactly what Olaf Falafel delivers in his hour-long comedy performance. Falafel celebrates and showcases his immaturity, yet hiding beneath this veneer of silliness, it is clear that he is both intelligent and insightful. The comedian riffs with ease between a variety of subject matter, moving swiftly on from a mockery of the Daily Mail’s xenophobic attitudes, to the correct way to cut a sandwich (depending on your personality, of course). There is a clear and delightful absurdism underpinning Falafel’s script, which elicits a warm response from the audience and, at times, a few well-deserved groans. Only at the Edinburgh Fringe would you find a show equipped with a title so curious and prophetic as 'The Cheese of Truth'.

Falafel gained fame through his humorous Vines, and he weaves these through the show at opportune moments. With a slick click of an iPhone he skilfully integrates technology into his performance as he intertwines his prerecorded and present life in a truly modern stage show. However, it is disappointing that this proficiency could not extend throughout the whole set. There appears to be a disparity between the wit present in Falafel’s Vines and his jokes on stage; with the latter seeming to often fall flat. Falafel relies too much on repeating jokes; he employs ‘sorbets’ (random, unexpected and often delightfully irrelevant one-liners) in order to allow for a rapid subject shift yet the high frequency of these make the show feel somewhat clunky and disjointed. Falafel is similarly flawed in his audience interaction. He repeatedly mocks a male member of the audience with a female name, and this act of emasculation feels childish and wastes time that could be spent on much funnier terms.

Technical issues could easily have been avoided. For instance, the opening monologue is drowned out by blaring music. Moreover, in the packed room the screen is a hidden mystery to many members as it is partially blocked off. This is a poor staging decision in a show centred around screening Vines, and results in several jokes being missed and audience members feeling somewhat isolated from the show.

Overall, Falafel is clearly capable of great wit and possesses a promising skill for stand-up. If he continues to hone his live performance, he could find himself being introduced as Sweden’s seventh funniest comedian at the next Fringe festival.

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