Rory O’Keeffe: Monoglot

Wed 3rd – Mon 29th August 2016

reviews

Lizzy Galliver

at 18:27 on 24th Aug 2016

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Expanding the Fringe stand-up comedy bracket beyond hackneyed stabs at crude one-liners, ‘Monoglot’ is a story about words, language and cultures. The young and amiable Rory O’Keeffe recounts his attempts to learn Italian in a bid to reconnect with his Mediterranean roots, dotting his linguistic journey with amusing anecdotes and topical quips. While not side-splittingly hilarious, the hour is enjoyable and actually very informative. I come away knowing twelve Italian words for coat-hanger, which is more than many stand-up sets can offer.

Linguistic musings are raised inventively throughout the performance: Does language affect thought? Which foreign words are untranslatable? While some of this material lacks comic value and potentially risks disappointing those expecting an hour of non-stop laughter, the theme is (at least to me) absorbing and succeeds in providing a little structure to the hour. Other props – such as the innovative use of a rediscovered childhood PowerPoint presentation and a rather misguided book about gendered speech – are also used slickly throughout.

As the “young, white, middle-class comedian” O’Keeffe admits he is, the humour in ‘Mongolot’ is perhaps targeted at a fairly specific crowd – a graduate generation who were raised watching Friends, overuse social media, and own basil plants – but other topical content (“I’m obliged to mention Brexit”) magnifies potential accessibility. Content largely steers clear of tasteless gags and cheap jokes, although a couple of clichéd one-liners about feminism and pornography (O’Keeffe, we are informed, only enjoys “ethically sourced porn”) feel like they have been chucked in just to tick a few ‘lad’ boxes.

Yet while a few jokes fall a bit flat, to his credit, O’Keeffe acknowledges their failure (“too NICHE!”) instead of letting them lie awkwardly in the air. Indeed, what O’Keeffe really excels in is his ability to successfully improvise. Constantly reacting to individual members of the audience, comic material is effortlessly created through amusing exchanges with a fourteen-year-old boy. Even a potentially awkward moment with a misplaced prop is turned into content as O’Keeffe returns from offstage, book safely in hand, pretending to be surprised we did not take the opportunity to run.

O’Keeffe might have hoped for one or two more spectators – as noted himself, twenty per cent of the crowd was indeed reviewers – but friendly engagement with the small group creates a refreshingly informal atmosphere. A little unpolished but endearingly so, ‘Monoglot’ is an entertaining hour for those interested in relatively mild comedy with some cultural substance.

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Caragh Aylett

at 15:16 on 25th Aug 2016

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Rory O'Keeffe has produced a show which draws together ideas of language and national identity. It is certainly an obscure comical topic for stand up, and unfortunately this choice causes the piece to suffer. Despite this, 'Monoglot' remains a largely entertaining hour to spend at the Fringe.

In places, the structure of the show seems obscure. O'Keeffe begins by reading out a self-written review - this is fairly amusing, but it does not set the tone for the show at all. The script quickly shifts into a joke about linguistics, but nothing seems well put together; in fact, the whole piece seems disjointed. The addition of a PowerPoint presentation is definitely amusing, especially with its Civil Service professionalism, but in some places the use of this seems slightly awkward and it is in these moments that it fails to add much to the performance.

While drawing on interesting concepts, most of O'Keefe's jokes fall flat. His discussion of linguistics certainly isn't the most popular choice for a comedian. While it is a really interesting subject complete with some intriguing anecdotes, it is just not funny. Judging from the minimal laughter, most of the audience seem to agree. The funniest part of his performance was not even supposed to happen: O'Keeffe is forced to quickly improvise when a prop is missing. I want to hear more of his language facts and stories but this certainly does not feel like a stand up show; more like a guest lecture, perhaps.

His audience interaction is unimposing and successful. His engagement with one young boy is an example of this: such continued interaction is consistently funny. However, his engagement with the audience does not seem to flow with the script particularly well and, while the audience feel comfortable with joining in, in places it appears as slightly excessive. Indeed, in one particular section he asks every audience member the same question which becomes boring fairly quickly and, awkwardly, reflects a slight bitterness over ticket sales.

Rory O'Keeffe's 'Monoglot' is an enjoyable hour, it really is, however it just doesn't come across as hilarious stand up. His piece is too nuanced to be laugh a minute but that isn't necessarily a huge flaw. An hour at 'Monoglot' certainly isn't a wasted hour, but it is not the witty, fast-paced comedy you might expect.

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