REVIEW: Joseph Haydn’s “Surprise” Symfunny

Peter Curry found Haydn’s Surprise Symfunny funny, quirky, and energetic.

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Haydn’s Surprise Symfunny didn’t disappoint, but it didn’t exactly blow me away either.

The show was comprised of an eclectic mix of humour, which seemed very remarkably Haydn, and I’m not talking about Haydn Jenkins, Cutting Tools Applications Engineer – apparently, as the comedian remarked, there’s often confusion.

I write as if I know him (the comedian that is; I’m no expert in the cutting industry) – I don’t. But Haydn’s humour felt like a summary of his personality: funny, quirky, and energetic. This came across in the show, and nobody could deny that he was any of these three qualities, but these were perhaps not an ideal mix when it came to delivering great stand-up for an hour.

Photo Credit: Emma Ents

Haydn was funny, no doubt about it. Dry observational humour combined with a drier wit resulted in a series of hilarious punchlines, which merited laugh after laugh. However, the energy of the show would have perhaps been more at home in a smoker or a sketch show, and simply slowing down would have helped to make many of the punchlines even funnier. Several jokes screamed out for a little bit of acting – or a deadpan look – to transform them from merely well-written jokes into brilliantly delivered ones.

It was this chaotic energy which really characterised the show. Haydn would run across stage, looking at his notes, decide to burst into a joke and then halfway through remember that he had missed another out; or maybe he’d decide not to deliver the joke at all, and instead run off at a different tangent which would then end in a funny gag. We were told at one point that there was a much darker follow-up to a joke, which was followed by a pang of disappointment when no darker joke was forthcoming.

Photo Credit: John Hughes, Art Festival 2015

Perhaps there was no joke, and several of Haydn’s jokes seemed to enter a slightly interesting territory of humour, the most peculiar being an excited observation that dentists also take shits. There was no punchline, but perhaps we were meant to create our own, or follow that line of logic to its natural conclusion – where are those hands going before they’re in our mouth? The ambiguity was quite entertaining, for me at least.

The material was ingenious at times, and the effective use of the screen to help deliver jokes was a refreshing change of pace, especially when they encapsulated so perfectly the humour of the joke. Opera singers on mute really do look like fat men yawning, and seeing that happen was much better than visualising it.

Photo Credit: John Hughes, Art Festival 2015

One feels that if the show were repeated, with greater emphasis on timing and delivery, this review would be different. At the end, when Haydn began to tie in elements of old jokes and play them off against each other, the show greatly improved.

Had the whole show done something similar, it would have great from start to finish. Instead, the audience quite happily settled for moments of magic.

3/5 stars