It was all arranged at the last minute when comic Aidan Killian – who some reviewer had dubbed “Ireland’s answer to Bill Hicks” – visited a friend in Phnom Penh, who got in touch with Khmer 440’s resident poet Ned Kelly, who phoned Donald Trump, and last night’s Comedy Club Cambodia show was borne.
But timing and the secret of great comedy aside, it was always going to be a hard gig to pull off, living up to the brilliance of Glenn Wool last month. And it wasn’t helped by the move of venue from Pontoon to Doors, an uber-trendy tapas and cocktail bar, north of Wat Phnom, even if it did have the same banging tunes from DJ Bree.
But it wasn’t just that. Sometimes, like with Wool, you need a weaker comedian to make the next one look good. And when there’s only one, the pressure is on and you’ve got to perform – or at least hone your material to the audience.
Unfortunately, jokes about the bleakness of austerity-hit Ireland seemed a million miles away from booming Asia. And a comic that ever utters “that deserves a clap” should never get one. To be fair, he wasn’t given the best start, plagued by a dodgy sound system that could barely be heard at the back of the room.
What could be heard at the back of the room was a cacophony of chat that swept over the audience like a humour-poisoning miasma, and your man had to keep prompting the crowd into an amusing barrage of “Hey you at the back – shut the fuck up!”
As I say, it couldn’t have been an easy gig for him. But I don’t know if there is some rule that Irish comedians should always bang on endlessly about the Emerald Isle in lilting, lyrical tones as though it’s some paradisiacal universe no-one’s ever been to. “Where are you from?” he asks a guy called Scotty who gets picked every time. “Liverpool.” “Oh, the second capital of Ireland.”
Then he’s on to wooing Irish women. “Do you know the old Irish expression – laughter is the way to a woman’s clitoris?” I’m half expecting: “You can take the woman out of Cork…” The howls of laughter, or at least mild chuckling, are again blighted by the chat from the back. Then he asks what the technical term for blowjob is. “Fellatio” they shout. “Fellatio! But people who use that word don’t get head…”
He’s back on after they’ve fiddled with the sound, explaining that he used to be an investment banker for Bear Stearns – describing his job as “copy, paste, enter” repeat – but quit six months before it all went tits up. There follows a piece about a banker being chased by a bank for missed mortgage payments. But on his terms, as he subjects the underlings to the same absurd, personal questions and piped music you get when phoning a bank.
It was political activist ranting the flavour of Mark Thomas. It wasn’t a gag fest. The crowd were supposed to chuckle along, and clap occasionally – which most of them did. Then he was bending over to simulate how Ireland was being shagged up the arse by the IMF and ECB. The last time I was in Dublin, taxi drivers kept gloating about how the Celtic Tiger was roaring and the UK was fucked because it wasn’t in the Euro. Now Ireland’s screwed, their faces must be as green as leprechaun’s piss. Killian’s main message seemed to be that debt wasn’t real, money was fake, and if the whole world should rise up and refuse to pay, what could the child-torturing reptiles do about it?
Then he puts on the accent of a lothario, pretending to be the world’s greatest lover: “I can taste the semen of my brother on your lips. And that’s love.” He’s quickly back to Ireland, mortgages and repossessions, followed by a yarn about how he was “kidnapped” by the police for sawing off a wheel clamp on his car with an angle grinder. “What’s your date of birth?” “I don’t know, I was too young at the time.” “I suppose you think you’re some kind of comedian?” “Yes.”
He told some chestnuts. “How was your last blowjob?” he asks Scotty. “What did it taste like?” And “I’m hung like Jesus,” he says, stretching his arms as if on a cross. His final piece was an audience rendition of the piped music we’re forced to listen to when phoning banks.
He wasn’t helped at all by the venue, the sound system, the noise from the back, and the crossed-arms-and-entertain-me attitude of some of the 150 or so-strong tapas munchers. Only a seasoned professional could have pulled off an hour-long set confronted by that – especially as he was doing it for free – and I wish I could have written a better review.
Perhaps it was Wool’s hilarious, varied show last month. In the never-failing comic tradition of taking the piss out of the town you’re in, Wool had scribbled notes in the back of a taxi from Ho Chi Minh City and thrown in some well-observed material about Cambodia and gold-toothed paedophiles in Hawaiian shirts.
Killian had a quick Gary Glitter put down to a would-be heckler, and a little skit about how if you want to feel good about yourself go to Thailand and get chatted up by bar girls. “You butterfly!” one of them tells him. In mock outrage, he replies: “I’m not a butterfly – I’m a human being!”
Yes it was free, as the MC in his penguin suit kept telling us. But no amount of repetition was going to make it any funnier. Even in a Dutch accent. Lord Penh promised to fly in a list of “international headliners” for next month’s comedy night. Let’s hope Stewart Lee’s on holiday in SE Asia.
Top photo by Lord Penh