Michael Workman seems to be a world-weary comedian. Broken, battered and beaten by a recent experience working on a cruise ship where he bombed so badly in his first show that the cruise director cancelled his remaining performances. The embarrassment amplified by the inability to escape the audience for the remainder of the cruise and becoming the butt of other performer’s jokes. Therefore, it’s no surprise that he seems to have lost his joie de vivre.
Known for his intellectually adroit and somewhat esoteric style, it seems to have been crushed by the cruise-ship crowd and Workman is left trying to justify how comedy works and find more ‘everyman’ references. That doesn’t necessarily mean bad things though; this routine is littered with mentions of television programs we all know – trashy reality shows, classic sitcoms, even late-night telephone sex line advertisements. All great orientation points for an audience, and within them there are glimpses of Workman’s poetically eloquent genius that entertain for their beauty as much as they do their humour.
A show in three parts, Workman’s structure is neat and as he progresses, positivity begins to creep back in, along with a craftsman-like skill. Then from nowhere he goes for one of the bravest set-pieces you can imagine, to deliver a right-wing style racist rant without offending anyone in his diverse audience. It’s an incredible tightrope walk and in less skilful hands could end up being read as a replay of Michael Richards’ 2006 Laugh Factory routine, but in fact actually makes a statement of tolerance and acceptance instead.
Every comedian has his peaks and troughs; thankfully, Michael Workman shows that despite having been sunk in a Mariana trench of humiliation, he’s on the voyage to recovery.