13 October 2018, Fringe in the 'Stings By Michael Hawksworth
Like any good storyteller, Jon “Fire in the Meth Lab” Bennett gives his non-fictional account of life with his dad a good stretching. This fell squarely into the “True Episodes from My Life as a Rich Source of Comedy Bullshit” subgenre of stand-up, nicely supported by pictorial “evidence” on PowerPoint. Jon’s dad, back in the day when Jon could still fit on his knee, was almost improbably good-looking, like a tanned, twinkly-eyed, Australian Rod Serling. Jon assured us that despite his dad’s genial appearance he was “a very serious man” who solemnly abjured bad language of any kind (“Curses!”) and was somewhat of a prude – this latter, of course became a source of friction between him and his quite brilliantly improvisational son, Jon “Pretending Things are a Cock” Bennett.
Beginning on a pig farm with a highly improbable birth myth involving a storm, a tarp, a ladder, and an umbilical cord repurposed as a climbing rope, Jon reeled through a series of episodes variously enumerating his dad’s regular accidental deaths with the aid of pictures that did little to inspire trust in the audience – for example, I suspect his photograph of an overcrowded train showing hundreds of Australian commuters crowded on its roof and otherwise clinging to its exterior was taken somewhere in India. Nevertheless, by the time the audience had weathered Jon’s dad’s second “death” by “choking on the bubbles in his coke”, we were fully on board, no matter how spurious the evidence.
Interspersing what might just have been a litany of eye-stretching biographical absurdity, were some awful poems (one, in the style of Banjo Patterson, entitled “When I First Had Sex I Tried to Put My Balls in”), some quite alarmingly violent Facebook posts by his parent’s foster daughter’s best friend, and a Jive Bunny dance routine performed with the authentically aggressive enthusiasm of an eight year-old by Jon wearing the very bunny costume he first performed this Jive Bunny dance in when he was eight.
Through it all Jon’s dad emerged as a reserved and decent pillar of the community; pig farmer, teacher, school bus driver, Sunday school teacher, basketball coach, football coach, swimming coach, talent show M.C., whose remarkable level of involvement in the the day to day ventures of his unruly son led to an inevitable series of frustrations (“I’m Frustrated!) and disappointments (“I’m disappointed!) that could never be expressed in expletives by this man, UNTIL…. well, I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise.
In a quite unexpectedly moving epilogue, Jon’s dad appeared on video, apparently none the worse for his many fatal experiences, and crushing disappointments, reading a truly terrible poem by Jon, with much real, non-fictional love. It was then, of course you realised that was all it was ever about. Even when you’re born on a farm that was just “dust, rocks, sadness and pigs, mostly pigs”, even when you’ve got a brother who keeps putting his dick in your ear, there’s always Dad there, hopefully always Dad.
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