Some of you may recall my first review of a Glenn Wool comedy presentation, done last year when Mr. Wool visited the Kingdom of Wonder for the first time. I use the term “review” loosely when describing that particular piece of writing because it wasn’t a review so much as an epic poem. A medieval tribute to the mighty warrior, Glennowulf, who killed it in the deep, dark, depths of Pontoon.
It was long-winded, strange, and aggressively enthusiastic. I liked it, personally, or I wouldn’t have submitted it and so I stand by it as I do everything I’ve written when I’m not in a blacked out stupor. In a way, it mirrored Glenn’s performance style, except that most people thought his performance was funny, whereas only I apparently thought that about my review.
I’ll just go ahead and torture that analogy to death in order to scare the other analogies and make them all toe the line, and also to illustrate my point: Glenn Wool’s shows aren’t lengthy, but his jokes sometimes can be. Some of his jokes are a web of wild tangents which are constantly expanding and branching out into other topics and subtle wink-wink observations, and just when you think that he must have forgotten what he was talking about way back at the beginning of the joke, he folds it all up neatly into a punchline at the end that brings it all together.
Glenn’s material is indeed witty, and it is in fact intelligent, but I wouldn’t characterize it as strange for the most part since much of what he covers can be easily related to by most people. Swan f*cking not included in that generalization, but for the most part. His delivery, however, is extremely strange and, yes, aggressively enthusiastic. In the best possible way.
Glenn Wool off-stage is a very low-key guy I would hazard, having only met him on two occasions and having only had a couple of conversations with him of a fairly polite and perfunctory nature. He’s friendly. Sometimes funny but more often not in an overt manner. He saves that energy for the stage, perhaps. I’m also friends with Glenn on Facebook (jealousy is eating your soul right now, admit it) and his occasional status updates or comments are also along those lines – sometimes funny but usually not so much, and not intended to be, and just generally laid back.
On stage, Glenn Wool becomes the character GLENN WOOL!!! GLENN WOOL!!! is loud, bombastic, melodramatic, and always funny, all the time. GLENN WOOL!!! appears to be drunk at times, tripping over his words or donning a stupefied grin. I’m pretty sure that Glenn Wool, wherever he goes during these performances, isn’t very drunk. I’m certain of this because I’d just been talking to him before he transformed into GLENN WOOL!!! like the Incredible Hulk bursting out of Bruce Banner, but with a beer in his hand.
Glenn Wool, easy going Glenn, shortly before this transformation, was asking me about mosquito repellent and if I had any. I said no, sorry, I didn’t, but maybe the club’s managers might be able to help him out. Nothing funny about that or over the top or even interesting. He didn’t drink the repellent or try to start a fire with it on the nearest couch. He used his inside voice for it. Nobody started blathering at him drunkenly about mosquitos in the loudest, drunkest voice possible to be drunk in, as if they were alone in a room with him and every remark was personally addressed to them and then appended with a neon glowing (?). Just a regular dude looking for some relief from the wears, tears, worries, and cares of his bug-infested life.
I wanted to tell him that if every expat carried around mosquito repellant and used it whenever they encountered them it would probably double the GDP of Cambodia due to the taxes and sales and Monivong Boulevard would probably be rebranded as “OFF! Road” and lit by huge electric bug zappers. So quit being a pussy and take your Dengue Fever like a big boy. You’re in the jungle, baby. You’re gonna itch. But that seemed like a smart-ass thing or a constellation of asshole things to say, or at minimum just me trying to be funny to a funny person in order to get their approval, so I didn’t say them.
At any rate, the mild-mannered Glenn Wool (and here we shift superheroic metaphors to a rival comic book publishing company) who is a glasses wearing glasses reporter for the Daily Planet who is working the optical beat and reporting on the news of the day that took place in the world of glasses, was off quietly inquiring mildly about mosquito repellent when, out of the blue, GLENN WOOL!!! the super-comic with the power to be super-funny, thundered onto the stage, roaring away about the perils of fucking swans. I thought, wow, terrible timing,
Glenn Wool is missing this right now, what an absolute shame that he left because of potential mosquito trouble. He should really be pissed when he finds out, but he won’t be, because he’s so mild-mannered that he acts like he’s eaten a whole box of Diazepam, which is a real possibility here in Cambodia.
GLENN WOOL!!! was very funny. What else can I say? Should I lie to you and find fault with something I genuinely enjoyed start to finish? Well, he did use some recycled material and I’m not certain if I’d seen it at his last appearance in Cambodia or in some video or another on the internet, but I’d heard a few of the jokes before. But I still laughed at them because they were still funny and he was right there, larger than life, or if not that at least as large as life, certainly no smaller. The guy flew to Cambodia just to perform for us and was probably going to end up getting paid Khmer wages while paying barang prices, and I wanted him to write all-new material for it? Yeah, pretty much.
But I knew he couldn’t and the older jokes were delivered with that GLENN WOOL!!! volcanic energy that made them exciting even if they were familiar. And much of what he said on stage I hadn’t heard before anywhere. There’s your critique portion of the review … of GLENN WOOL!!! and Glenn Wool. Two very different but very cool dudes who would absolutely hate each other if they met, they are such opposites it’s crazy, like a guy with glasses versus a guy with no glasses, that level of difference.
Speaking of glasses, the curiously bespectacled Scotty Muldoon, once of Liverpool and presently of Phnom Penh, was the evening’s warm-up act and MC.
In the interest of full disclosure I will note that Scotty is a close friend of mine (or “one of me best mates” as he would say in his nigh-incomprehensible accent, so like and yet so unlike actual English.) How, then, shall I proceed? Shall I be Tough but Fair, leveling criticism at him in the interests of objectivity? Or should I just kiss his ass because I want him to be happy and confident? Or should I offer up some constructive criticism that tries to have it both ways, to criticize and to encourage or applaud at the same time, as if I knew a single thing about comedy that he doesn’t?
None of the above. I’m just going to give my opinion and you can clear off to the forums to whine anonymously about it if you don’t think it’s reliable or honest. And my opinion of Scotty is that he’s one charming motherfreaker. Handsome. Really intelligent. Good in bed, by his own reports. It’s more than a little bit infuriating to me that he’s also funny on top of all that. But he is. I think that he has tremendously huge balls just for attempting it and he not only attempts to be funny but actually succeeds at it quite often.
He’s in his 30’s, taking a risk and trying a new creative outlet that’s notoriously difficult to get right but he does it anyways because he has a blast getting up on stage. It’s all in good fun. What’s not to love about that? Seriously. What? Nothing. That’s what. And that’s why I love the guy, even when he’s wearing those totally perplexing glasses. Does that sound like a legit review or a Hallmark card for a friend? Can the answer to a rhetorical question be: I don’t care? I really don’t care. Yes, indeed.
I suppose I’ll have to address the topic of audience etiquette, as the secrets of its mastery have long eluded certain people in Phnom Penh.
Who are you? Who the frick are the dumb assholes yap yap yapping like they’re at some kind of a meet and greet? What’s wrong with you people? Why are you doing that? It isn’t a cultural thing. You’re all from the west. You’ve probably seen something like a comedy show before, at least that’d be for sure true if we counted pro-wrestling as a form of comedy, but I think you’re aware that etiquette dictates that you shut the heck up or at least lower your voices while someone is performing because it’s distracting to the comedians and to the rest of the audience, and the absolutely inane and asinine and pointless banter that passes for conversation between yourselves as you squawk like hungry parrots asking each other for crackers ad infinitum and to no avail is not welcome and it’s not necessary and neither are you. Check that sh*t at the door and shut the hell up and if you can’t then just go away. Please and thank you, sir.
Oh, and, to be fair, I’m very pleased to say thank you to the many, many expats in the room last night who were appropriately attentive to the performances and whose behavior was impeccable and unimpeachable. If any of you were to glass the noisy shitheels who are making us all look like ignorant backwater rubes every time they venture forth from the stained flophouse confines they usually squat in, I would probably be okay with that. I bet you that’s the very first time that sentence has ever been used in a comedy review. Outside of Australia.
So there we have it. Glenn Wool, Part Two. Electric Boogaloo. Ned still can’t write a proper review, it’s true. I had a great time and I still believe, firmly, that Glenn Wool is a big time talent who’s just slightly too smart and weird for the mainstream but too goddamned good for total obscurity, and thusly he is cursed to forever roam the lonely corners of the planet, stopping wherever there’s a stage and a PA to ply his trade. And we’re lucky like the number 7 that he’s willing and able to come and perform for us in Cambodia. And we’re lucky like a rented moto that we have folks like Dan Riley of Comedy Club Cambodia putting a lot of effort and resources into making these shows happen. And we’re lucky like the supermarket (if it had luckier fucking prices) that we have a group of brave and oft bespectacled amateur comedians here (mostly thanks to the brief tutelage of Aiden Killian) who I give a huge amount of respect to for just getting up there and trying and who I give even more respect than that to for succeeding as they often do.
Bottom line: You need to go to these events. You need to be there. You need to shut up once the comedians take the stage there, but all the same and with that in mind, you need to be there. You’ll like it. You’ll laugh. If you don’t support events like this they’ll eventually stop happening because they cost money to organize, all sorts of expenses from the performer’s fees to their plane tickets. Given the relative lack of stuff going on in Phnom Penh on many an evening (unless you consider binge drinking a “goings on” I guess) these shows should all sell out.
And while attendance has been good for some of them, it should be packed to the rafters at all of them, because none of you ain’t got sh*t to do most of the time, and you know it, and I know it, and let’s just admit that’s the case and make a pledge to all go somewhere together once in a while, like once every few months, all of us will get together and watch famous amazing ass-laughing-the-off-of touring comedians together and have fun, and then afterwards you can go get blackout and shout dubious ethnic slurs at the guy who works at Raksmey Burger, once again, because if anybody knows what that’s about. He doesn’t and you certainly don’t the next morning. There’s time in your life for a little laughter, Phnom Penh, even with those late night types of priorities.
Thanks, you’ve been a wonderful audience, good night.
SIDEBAR: Glenn on Glenn! (No, it’s not gay erotica. Not exactly. It has some moments like that, but it’s more of an art thing than straight porno. Until the sex scenes.)
Q: Cambodia has a tragic recent history and is undergoing a lot of political turmoil right now. Are there any limits as to what can be joked about? Is anything off the table? Or can anything be funny?
A: Yes, anything can be funny. Subject matter isn’t as important as people think. Joke structure is what starts the giggling. As for Cambodia, it’s one of my favorite places on the planet. I’m always struck with how friendly the people
seem to be and always smiling so really I would say to people who claim you can’t laugh at certain subjects, I’d direct them towards the Cambodian outlook and say, “If they can go through what they went through and still smile, then I
think you could probably handle it if you heard a joke you didn’t like.”
Q: You’ve lived as an expat for over a decade in places like London and you’ve traveled the world for years as a comedian. Has the expat life influenced your comedy at all? Does it change the nature of your observations when you’re an
“outsider” living in a country that you aren’t a native of?
A: I’ve always been an outsider. Even growing up in Canada, my family moved around a lot. I don’t know if it has an effect or not, but I do know that playing on constant loop in my inner monolgue is the mantra “stay golden pony boy.”
Q: Could you hack it as an expat in Cambodia? Would you please consider moving here and letting me be your crony? I’d do whatever you told me to. Anything. Whatever. Please? Dude?
A: Yep, I’m in. Let me just commit the heinous crimes I’ve been contemplating for a few years now, and then I should be ready for my new tattoos and cosmetic surgery, a whole new me coming to Cambodia.