Amateur Night of the Living Dead - is a mystery

Amatuer Night of the Living Dead, who the hell is this guy?

Okay, I have a confession to make. With the notable exceptions of Jack Dee and Eddie Izzard, I really don’t like stand up comedy. I’m not sure why I have this block. Maybe it’s because I’m blessed with a group of friends who can make me cry with laughter. These individuals are funny spontaneously in real life, with no script. So, seeing someone stand at a microphone repeating over-rehearsed material seems kind of flat and boring to me.

The guy who performed (and I assumed wrote) Amateur Night of the Living Dead can relax then, because it’s not just him, it’s the form itself I find flat and boring. Once again there was no program for this Fringe show. I went to the producer’s website and (worryingly for the anonymous performer) there is no mention of this particular show. I went to the “cast” page and found that the performer could be any of three bald guys. I’m thinking Trevor Campbell (although I’m not counting out Peter Strand Rumpe or Tom Sarsons). Campbell’s bio states that if Andy Kaufman were alive he would be a fan. This is only a mildly less absurd claim than the other Fringe performer who was compared to Spalding Gray. Sarsons claims to be the Picasso of comedy – well, I’m the Van Gogh of reviewers so that’s okay then.

So this Amateur Night thing is a stand up routine? Sort of. It has this cumbersome theatrical framing device that we’re at the last night of a comedy club called the Laugh Hole (which is said in such a way that I guess it’s supposed to sound rude). We bear witness to the last line up to play the club, which includes Christopher Walken, a zombie and Hitler. Yes, only one of those is the living dead. The title is even more confusing when you realize that the zombie is actually a professional comedian. Campbell (or Rumpel or Sarsons) is a talented performer and a great mimic but this nightclub business is simply laborious. We have to wait for Campbell (or Rumpel or Sarsons) to change costumes. If I had been directing, I might have suggested that he, you know, use the traditional segue of “Say, wouldn’t it be funny if Hitler were still alive and doing stand up?” or “You know, I was driving along the other day and it occurred to me, what if a zombie did, you know, stand up. Imagine a zombie stand up!” and then just do the routine. It would have saved us at least fifteen minutes.

If the idea of a zombie and Hitler doing stand up makes you smile, then maybe you’ll like this show. The problem I have is that the different routines I’ve mentioned are all basically the same shtick. The humour, such as it is, comes from these unlikely performers doing stand up. Campbell (or Rumpel or Sarsons) uses the opportunity to regurgitate old jokes. A chicken joke told by Hitler in German is still just the same old chicken joke.

Campbell (or Rumpel or Sarsons) seems like a lovely guy. He ended the show by encouraging people to shout out the titles of any shows they were working on, and a few titles were thrown out. He also had some of the audience – particularly some people from Oregon – laughing. I sat there mostly with a blank look on my face. I just don’t get it. But then none of my friends do zombie impersonations at the pub.

And I’m kind of thankful for that.

For more information, scare yourself here.

By Andrew Templeton