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Sammy J @ Brisbane Comedy Festival Review

Sammy J is the sort of comedian whose work can be incredibly hard to describe.

On the surface, there’s a sweet and whimsical optimism to his comedy that can rub us bitter, cynical ‘DAAS’ fans the wrong way.

But for those paying attention (24 March), Sammy J’s work is rife with snark and subtle bite. With a razor-sharp wit it’s easy to miss given he never aims for the jugular.

His latest work, ‘Hero Complex’, is currently a laugh-a-minute success at the Brisbane Comedy Festival. Part musical memoir, part ode to fandom, part whodunnit (well, more a ‘what did you do, Sammy?’ But you get the point); it’s a genre-mashing journey through the comedian’s life and loves.

If you’re worried this sounds like an ‘ode to my comedy genius’ kind of moment, don’t be. Sammy J is the sort of comedian who takes self-deprecation to the extreme.

In fact, though this is a memoir piece, he’s somehow cast himself as the bumbling sidekick in his own life story. It’s a baffling, but brilliant piece of narrative gymnastics.

How do you talk about a show like ‘Hero Complex’? It’s sweet without being cloying, a wickedly-funny romp through some of Sammy J’s formative experiences that it’s hard not to love.

Fans of iconic character The Phantom will no doubt have a field day with the hat tips and in-jokes. But for those who have a comic nerd (or Whovian, or…) in their lives, it might just be a much-needed glimpse into the world of someone passionately in love with a creative work.

‘Hero Complex’, at its heart, is a celebration of friendships and how fraught they can be. It’s almost a Shakespearean comedy of errors leading to the moment a Federal Police officer knocks on Sammy’s door.

It’s a compelling story, rich with love, betrayal and musical moments. But, weirdly, it’s also true.

The problem with enjoying a show or being a fan of something is that it’s far too easy to spoil the story for those around you who’ve yet to see it. There’s so much I want to say here – and a heart-melting moment at last night’s show that I’d love to talk about– but doing that runs the risk of spoilers.

Suffice it to say, my Grinch heart grew three sizes last night and having to keep my mouth shut about it is actually painful. I finally understand how River Song feels.

Normally it’s easy to find a few niggling issues to point out, to try and balance the review. The problem here is that I can’t think of a single part of the show that I can hold up as flawed. Even things that seemed slightly odd were deliberate choices that made perfect sense later on.

Though it feels like an easy-going romp through the memories, it’s a well-crafted, meticulous piece of storytelling that’s pretty much going to delight your inner-word nerd if you’re a writer or aspiring comedian. It’s the perfect reward for surviving a hellish week as well as rocking a brilliant one.

Sammy J is a gifted storyteller more than capable of offering an hour’s respite from the outside world as you try and puzzle out just why the Federal Police were in his house.

‘Hero Complex’ has a few more shows in Brisbane (25-26 March) before becoming one of the not-to-be-missed events at a host of comedy festival, 2017 seasons.

★★★★★

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