Steve Bugeja: Day Release

Thu 6th – Sun 30th August 2015

reviews

Fergus Morgan

at 02:26 on 14th Aug 2015

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Rarely does a comedian appear so endearingly sweet whilst simultaneously displaying such quick wit and natural flair for comedy as Steve Bugeja.

With his shy smile, neat button-down shirt and chirpy squeak of a voice, Bugeja is simply adorable. Day Release, his hour-long set, however, arranged as one story with many digressions, is also a masterclass in comedic construction.

Bugeja’s comedy is centred on himself, and his self-effacing style is obvious from the start as he shows the audience a blown-up copy of his first Facebook profile picture. So begins the tale that forms the central thread of his show. Bugeja takes the audience back to his early teens, and from there follows the story of his unrequited love for best friend Amy, from their first (and only) kiss in his Peugeot 206 to the day of her wedding to ‘villain of the piece’ Rick, when he had to ferry her criminal father from prison to the ceremony.

Bugeja takes us on this journey in an engaging, enjoyably natural manner, frequently pausing to delve down side-alleys and by-roads into other areas of his past, but never allows the pace to slacken enough for the audience’s attention to wander. His command over his own material is an absolute joy to behold.

Much of Bugeja’s comedy is born of an ability to laugh at himself and in particular at his own crippling anxiety . “I just don’t do things that scare me”, he confesses, referring to his fear of awkward and embarrassing social situations. Yet he is also a master of the not-so-subtle aside, muttering insults and confessions under his breath to much amusement. “Fuck off, arsehole”, he frequently mumbles after mentioning love-rival Rick.

For the most part, Bugeja’s interaction with his audience is faultless, if not as sharp as his rehearsed material; his comments and rejoinders are never particularly witty. He is undoubtedly strongest when in the midst of his own life, providing the audience with needless specifics in a faux-sincere fashion as he relates episodes from his past.

But in truth, any criticism is nit-picking in the extreme. Last year, Bugeja hosted Pleasance’s brilliant comedy showcase The Comedy Zone, after winning the prestigious BBC Radio New Comedy Award in December 2013. Day Release is his debut solo show and it is an undoubtedly triumphant progression, the next step for a comedian clearly destined for greatness.

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Rowena Henley

at 09:57 on 14th Aug 2015

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Steve Bugeja, winner of the BBC comedy award and keen watcher of Jersey Boys, performed his new stand up routine ‘Day Release’ to a packed-out venue of eagerly awaiting comedy fans. Knowing little about this performer and intrigued by the rather ominous title of the show, I was intrigued to see what this comedian had to offer. Luckily, Bugeja’s set was one of true innovativeness, with his understated wit and self-effacing humour making for an evening of genuine hilarity.

The genius of Steve Bugeja’s show lay in its structure. Rather than adopting the traditional format of stand up, by moving from one subject to the next with only a slight sense of coherence, Bugeja decided to base his stand up around one story, with relevant tangents adding a sense of variety to the performance. The idea worked brilliant not only because the story was incredibly interesting, but also because it allowed for a sense of cohesiveness which is often a key element to any good comedy show. As the evening progressed, I found myself becoming more and more invested in the progression of his story and the outcome at the end. Bugeja somehow combined merciless comedy (calling a firefighter a ‘dick’ for example) with sincere humility and and warmth.

More often than not, comedians adopt the position of the underdog (or ‘geek’ if you will) in order to generate some laughs. With Bugeja, however, (and I really do mean this in the nicest and most complimentary way possible) you get the feeling that it is genuinely true. His account of his school days are both truly entertaining and truly tragic, with a vast majority focussing on the issues one faces when they had a MILF for a mother. My personal highlight, however, must have been Bugeja’s account of his first (and last) experience in a lap dancing club. You can see the genuine sense of horror and confusion he felt at being in such an alien environment,

During his recap of this unfortunate evening, Bugeja showed off his talents in terms of audience repartee. Often, comedians completely overstep the mark and attempt to shoe horn in every type of interaction they can possibly get. However, Bugeja handled audience interaction only when appropriate and in a very controlled manner; a clear sign of his potential to become a comedian of professional standards.

Bugeja’s set is well worth your time and money this festival. If you want to see something totally unique and relentlessly funny then head down to Just The Tonic and book your tickets now.

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