For a show whose title takes its inspiration from Casablanca (1942), Here’s Looking at You, Squid does take us on a journey into the life and mind of performer Joe Shaffer, and while these personal moments were the triumph of the show, the incessant and unimaginative sex jokes that accompanied these truly funny and heartfelt snapshots had me longing for a plane out of there.
Pitched as a “show for animal lovers and haters alike” and featuring facts about animals, the description of the show on the MICF website was misleading, as were the first two words in the phrase “Australia’s favourite silly boy.” While Shaffer made a considered effort to interact with the small audience and conveyed that he was genuinely concerned with how people were experiencing and enjoying the show, the adolescent dick jokes and sub-par slideshow detracted from what was an otherwise engaging night of comedy. Similarly, Shaffer’s tendency to get distracted laughing at his own adolescent jokes made him come across as a man-child, rather than the caring and socially conscious man we saw when he shared stories of his unique upbringing and family life today.
When discussing being raised on an emu farm in Texas, Shaffer’s detailed descriptions of the large birds that inhabited the property and his physical prowess in imitating them was downright hilarious and pleasingly informative: I for one didn’t even know what a rhea was going into the show and now I know that if you gently shoo them away by moving the bristly end of a broom into their chest you’ll be safe in their presence. Seeing Shaffer re-enact this procedure was worth the trip to the show itself, the title of which Shaffer facetiously conceded may have to be revised to Here’s Looking at You, Birds. Furthermore, I learnt that when teaching children under your supervision that your word is final there’s probably a better choice of words to use than “no means no”, particularly if you happen to lose said children in a grocery store with a trolley full of candy they’ve thrown in there and they see it fit to scream the words while you try to locate them. A relatable and almost guiltily funny scene that had the audience in stitches.
Though Shaffer’s uncertainty in himself onstage may have been attributed to it being the first night of the run in Melbourne and presented to a smaller audience, to see him own his funniness and play to his strengths rather than relying on obvious sexual innuendo would be enormously beneficial to the show and is something I would love to see happen. A more coherent narrative and smother transitions between different stages of the show would also rapidly improve the experience, as would more insightful facts about the animals which infiltrate our screens and lives on a daily basis, but the distinct (and distinctly amusing) characteristics and behaviours of which we may not be aware.
Here’s looking at you, Joe Shaffer.