JOEY PAGE: CATASROPHE PARTY

Thu 20th – Sun 30th August 2015

reviews

Becky Wilson

at 10:48 on 25th Aug 2015

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Chortle once called Joey Page “surreal, charming and hilarious”. Unfortunately, absolutely none of this is visible at his current stand-up show, Catastrophe Party. Instead, he delivers a depressing rant about the failure of his career to a small and bored audience. There is nothing wrong when comedians indulge in a little self-deprecation. But when their entire, hour-long routine consists almost exclusively of whining, it gets tedious pretty quickly.

This show marks Page’s tenth year in the industry. Against an ironic background of gaudy balloons and celebratory bunting, he moans about his unfulfilled dreams and oozes bitterness for the undeserved success of his rivals. At the end of the show, Page delivers the final blow. He strips down to his underwear in a moment of despair, then invites audience members to throw plastic roses into “the empty coffin of his career”, which lies, tragically, on the tiny stage.

It is only at this point that I realise the entire routine is not a genuine cry for help, but merely a tongue-in-cheek attack on his own ego. While the fact that it is Monday might have something to do with the poor turnout, his jokes consistently fail to get anyone in the audience laughing. His musings about terminating his comedy career are supposed to be hilariously overblown. Instead, in light of this performance, they actually seem to be quite sensible.

What lies at the core of Page’s arrogant message is his apparent belief that the rest of the world is to blame for his own comedic failures. He makes a genuine, heartfelt plea that we all stop watching rubbish TV and communicating in empty small talk, instead perceiving the world more imaginatively. Page has a point here but frustratingly, there’s nothing clever or notable about the sketches he delivers which do require us to use our imagination. He describes a professor who has a nut for a head and pretends to be two spacemen having a rather dull conversation. A David Bowie impression is stretched out for far too long, with no apparent punchline. And at one point, another comedian comes onstage in an unsubtle move to promote his own show. For all of Page’s devotion to creativity, between the pair of them, neither comedian can think of anything remotely amusing to do together.

Page’s writing is lazy, his imagination feeble and his persona so unlikeable that you won’t even feel sorry for his failures. Unless you like leaving stand-up shows utterly downcast, I would certainly not recommend this brand of comedy to anyone.

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Stasia Carver

at 16:05 on 25th Aug 2015

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Either you like Joey Page or you don’t: his wry, rambling style certainly won’t appeal to everyone. This isn’t a show for those seeking instant comedic gratification in the form of slick anecdotes or one-liners you’ll quote to friends afterwards, but those who can appreciate his subtle, self-deprecating brand of humour will agree that here is a comic talent who deserves more hype.

Marking Page’s tenth anniversary performing at the Fringe, Catastrophe Party is a wry celebration of the dismal reality of a decade in stand-up. Don’t be deceived by his plum suit and fedora (he gloomily describes the kooky look as “indie f*ckbag prick”); we don’t need his reassurance that he doesn’t dress like this at home to make it clear that he’s far removed from the Instagram-friendly world of smug East London hipsters.

Instead, we get a wonderfully bleak picture of his life as an impoverished 31-year-old still living with his parents. Page has a knack for describing the mundane in fresh and hilarious ways - whether it’s his arduous daily commute to his bedroom desk or the impracticalities involved in inviting girls home.

The show wasn’t without its imperfections. A staged interruption by another comedian felt forced; the frequent references to his brief stints on Coach Trip and Never Mind The Buzzcocks got slightly tiresome, though in a show otherwise so relentlessly self-effacing, we can forgive Page a little self-indulgence. More discomfiting were moments when wryness seemed to give way to bitterness – an anecdote may demonstrate that another famous comedian is “a c*nt in real life”, but telling it doesn’t make your own show any funnier.

Generally, I got the sense that this isn’t Page’s best writing: I’d have preferred fewer musings on whether he should pack his profession in, and more of the wry, meandering anecdotes at which he excels. Nevertheless, I was won over by his highly distinctive, understated style of delivery, the essence of which simply can’t be captured on paper: it needs to be seen and heard to be appreciated.

Stand-up is so subjective that seeing any comedian for the first time will always be a gamble, even when he’s been in the business for a decade. In Joey Page’s case, though, it’s a risk definitely worth taking. Mine paid off; I’m looking forward to watching his next decade meander its way along.

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