The Studio Theatre, Sydney Opera House
Thursday April 17th
The nice nerd of comedy, Lawrence Leung, is back, and he’s on a mission: to outcool his older brother Dennis. Despite a reasonably unhip name, the bass-playing, black-wearing Dennis is – in our comic’s eyes – the epitome of all things Fonzie. Light-hearted sibling rivalry underpins Lawrence’s new show, which playfully unravels the rocks we build our church of cool on, including fashion, attitude and dance. Fast becoming a veteran of the Aussie stand-up scene, Lawrence’s new show cements his reputation as a clever, likeable performer who works hard to deliver laughs.
The prolific entertainer describes his style as hardcore whimsy – his brand of comedy is not aggressive or confrontational, and fear-inducing audience participation – the bane of the bad comic – is nowhere to be seen. We’re happy to be privy to his mission for coolness. Lawrence exudes an enthusiastic warmth – if you can call Kerry O Brien unattractive to his face and get away with it, you know you’re doing something right (A punchline to a set about pick-up artists – pointing out the physical flaws of a friend is apparently a key strategy – a happy coincidence of front row seating arrangements).
The show displayed Lawrence’s atypical work ethic in the production, including filmed and photographed stunts of his attempts to beat cool at its own game. Some of these were unique and clever – shopgiving a fake designer t-shirt to test the fashion nuance of Melbourne consumers – some easy targets with predictable outcomes – what woman isn’t going to be annoyed or scared of a unnervingly persistent stranger asking for her phone number at the ATM?
His final segment involving a real battle with hip hop dancers at Federation Square is the hilarious testamount to I’d-can’t-believe-he-actually-did-that risktaking. This is no comic commenting blithely on society’s eccentricities from an ivory tower – this manchild is making us laugh from the trenches, his thin, Adidas-covered body on the line for our amusement. Ticket to Lawrence Leung’s show? $30. The sight of three decidedly nerdy boys attempting the worm in front of hundreds of hip hop aficionados in Federation Square? Priceless.
My only criticism for Lawrence’s work is timing. Having performed this show at last year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival (where it picked up The Age’s Critic’s Choice award), Edinburgh and London, there’s no doubting Lawrence knows this work backwards. Great comedy appears effortless in its delivery, spoken by the entertainer as if to a table of friends. The fast pace of the delivery meant the audience was never bored, but had Lawrence taken time to connect a little more with the audience and let the material ebb and flow to punchlines, this great show would have been even greater, and would have loosened up the very well structured material. Moments of true emotional resonance – such as Dennis dating his first real crush – were lost amongst a steady stream of jokes.
My plus one for this premiere was JD Carteret, hip hop dancer from Channel Ten’s shiny floor show juggernaut, So You Think You Can Dance. Over red wine and beneath a patchy carpet of stars on the Harbour foreshow, a deal was struck for JD to help Lawrence with the daggily cute breakdancing routine which closes the show. “In the world of hip hop, he’s like an Asian version of Napoleon Dynamite,” is the word from the pro. “He’s a person who couldn’t dance, effortlessly dancing like he couldn’t dance. He wasn’t trying to look good doing those moves. No matter how hard you try to teach him, you wouldn’t change that.”
Lawrence Leung. He might not have mastered breakdance, but I’d take him over Fonzie any day.
4 \5 stars