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January 26, 2011 / Siobhan Argent

Stephen Lynch: Three Balloons


Published 9/9/10 at www.artshub.com.au

Oh, Stephen Lynch: there is a line, but you know how to bounce from one side to the other and come out more or less unscathed. No fan who bought tickets to his show Three Balloons could have possibly expected anything less than a distinct lack of boundaries in Lynch’s show, given his songs cover anything from Nazis, to mentally-handicapped best friends, AIDS, and Satan’s homosexual leanings. If you’re the type who can handle being a touch offended and still laugh, Lynch’s supersonic comedic pace will keep you hooting with laughter.

His show is like a rolling parade of bad-taste but hilariously funny songs, interspersed with one-liners, and half of it appears unscripted until you realise that his whole show is just a very long-winded setup for the finale. But most of the time I still got the impression that he’s just a naturally funny guy, which gives him a lot of scope for interacting with the audience and being quick enough to bounce jokes off anything they care to throw at him. (He does, however, fall into that old fail-safe of comedy, which is generally dropping the f-bomb more than normal.) As Michael Richards (Kramer from Seinfeld) found out, this can sometimes be a mistake, but it seems to work well enough for Lynch and his audience. As it stands, if you’re not discerning enough to sneer at songs about Anne Frank’s unfortunate demise, and the ‘big fat friends’ who get in the way of a successful pick-up at a bar, then you’re not going to mind the odd swearword.

His songs are funny, no doubt, and he’s got a perfectly fine voice to go along with it. It’s nothing astonishingly good, but he’s always on-key and he’s get right into the songs, which means the audience can too. He sings each cringe-worthy tune without a modicum of embarrassment, which I guess works well when you’re describing your sexual adventures with a transvestite, or Satan’s apparently gay lisp.

Lynch also knows how to lay out the progression of a show, because he saves the introduction of his best friend until about the last third of the show. From the opening you begin to wonder when this bloke’s going to show up, because Lynch keeps talking to him as he stands backstage putting on the 30-second video skits or playing with the lighting.

And at last, when Rod does appear, it turns out he’s a harmless-looking, dorky, middle-aged man. He declared that he’d already had too many beers that night (while polishing off the beer in his hand), and has clearly been working side-by-side with Lynch for so long that he could probably do their routine in his sleep. Aside from the ongoing joke that Rod looks like Jeff Daniels (which he does) he actually ramps up the humour a notch. His improve challenges provide Lynch with even more fodder for his warp-speed thought processes, and as a result the talk darts from Kermit and Yoda orgies, to inappropriate history lessons for young American kids.  Still, it’s the natural banter between the pair that makes it so fun to watch. They also sing a selection of duets, including a song which may be painfully pertinent song for some; Queer Tattoo.

It seems I don’t spend enough time on YouTube though; Lynch stumbled across international success when someone taped his performance on a camera phone and posted it to the site. After millions of hits on the video, Lynch has become an established comedy success story, with features on the American Comedy Central show and what seemed to be a clearly dedicated fan base in Melbourne’s audience that night. Most people in the audience knew all the words to his classics and spent Lynch’s talking time screaming out song requests, to which he responded with an equal level of cheekiness. Just don’t agree to see this show if you like avoiding touchy subjects, otherwise you’ll squirm all the way through this one. If you can handle being offended no matter what happens, then you’ll probably have a rollicking good time.

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