Zoe Coombs Marr pulls off something quite remarkable in her Melbourne comedy festival show Dave. As a woman playing the part of a sexist, puerile, obnoxious but affable bloke, she creates an incredible artistic and discursive space in which to perform. I think this was the first time (and hopefully last) I’d heard an audience laugh at a rape joke.
The comic timing and visceral edge the Sydney comedian brings to Dave is remarkable. After throwing an entire bag of Minties over the crowd and returning to the stage with a heavy thud, a stream of blood flows from Dave’s temple into his right eye and dries across his cheeks. Dave then continues his spluttering tirades about the relentless search for the clitoris during sex, frequently returning to the refrain “the blokes know what I’m talking about … yeah, this bloke knows what I’m talking about… nah, but I love the ladies …” The material veers from the battle of the sexes to fairy penguins in Sydney; from trite Melbourne v Sydney comparisons to the vagaries of anal sex.
There were moments in the second half when Dave seemed to run out of material, referring back to his notes and constantly asking his tech guy how long he had left to fill. The audience was caught in the awkwardly uncomfortable position of relishing the subversive depth of Zoe Coombs Marr’s creation, but baulking in repulsion at Dave’s awkward, offensive punchlines.
The most confronting aspect is that the character of Dave is so awfully, strikingly familiar – a black mirror on the Australian male psyche. I won’t give away the finale, suffice to say it’s worth the wait, and further drives home the message that there is a bit of Dave in most of us. The audience responded with a prolonged ovation – but one sensed there was an element of relief in it, we’d been freed from 60 minutes of exquisitely squirm-inducing entertainment.