Michael Shafar was given a 50/50 chance of survival when diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2017.
The Melbourne stand-up comedian’s new show digs into his experiences with cancer, chemo, the disease’s social ramifications and his recent entry into remission.
But '50/50' is also a silly comedy show with jokes about balls, observations of everyday hypocrisy and plenty of focus on Shafar’s Jewish identity and his family members’ corresponding quirks (Jewish mum looms large throughout the show).
Shafar is a writer for Channel 10’s 'The Project'. His day job gets a brief nod in the show, but more is given away by his delivery style. In line with the current affairs comedy programme, Shafar buffers serious material with easy-to-detect punchlines. You quickly come to recognise that his employment of an earnest tone means a goofy gag is on its way.
It’s an endearing if slightly predictable approach and the show does contain some solid laughs. One of the best gags compares chemotherapy-induced hair loss to hereditary-pattern baldness. I won’t try to reproduce it here, but it’s a corker.
The serious material isn’t of a woe is me nature. Rather, Shafar rebuffs the idea that having cancer ought to engender a determined commitment to living each day like it’s your last and underlines how people’s patronising, schmaltzy treatment of cancer sufferers is really not helpful.
In many ways '50/50' allows Shafar to live out a 21st century male comedian’s dream. It’s a show with substance and strong personal significance that also talks about pleasuring oneself and tears fitness fanatics to shreds.