Moments before Unfinished Business is scheduled to begin, co-star Kieran Eaton fronts the crowd and politely announces that the show will commence a few minutes late. One of the reviewers, he explains, is yet to arrive. “Who cares about the Herald Sun anyway?” he yelps into the microphone.
Trouble is, Eaton got it wrong. His co-star Laura Money informs him (and the audience) that it’s the writer from The Age who’s running late; The Herald Sun reviewer is already seated. Laughter fills the room. Someone yells “you’re f-cked!”
This nugget of comedy gold is not part of the show. Eaton, strapped for words, attempts to move on by describing what just happened as “awkward comedy at its best.” As if to reiterate the point, he fidgets with the light switches, nearly trips over the microphone cable then “hides” behind the curtain in full sight of everyone seated on the left hand side of a small underground room at Caz Reitop’s Dirty Secrets, which is approximately half the audience.
Eaton knows good awkward comedy. He’s been doing it for years, though the strange energy of his performances suggests a spontaneous anything goes approach. Flight of the Conchords, The Might Boosh and They Might Be Giants proudly pedalled “anti-cool” comedy. Eaton’s gift to the scene is “uber anti-cool.”
Doctor Who jokes, a slide whistle and some of the most graceless musical numbers you’ve ever heard – including one about why he doesn’t like “cool guys” – consciously reinforce his anti-cool cachet, which some audiences will find side-splittingly hilarious while others may be prompted to reassess their core beliefs: God, gravity, the Tooth Fairy, whatever.
Unfinished Business broadens and contextualises Eaton’s reach by juxtaposing it alongside Money’s, whose more conventional approach will go down easier with more conservative audiences. Together they are girlfriend/boyfriend – in real life and in performance – and Unfinished Business is framed in the context of them sitting on the couch at home trying to write a comedy show. They are by their own admission “a bitch and a weirdo.” This is vintage odd couple comedy — loose and strange versus sharp and sober – and proof that OCC is alive and well.
Unfinished Business begins with Money arriving home from work and Eaton explaining, in his trademark slow and staggered drawl, what he did during the day. It kicks off on a funny irreverent note, and the funniest thing is Eaton’s hilarious delivery.
Money’s shtick is sardonic observational humour with some surprises thrown in, such as a nice little piece written in staunchly modern vernacular (OMG, it’s totes [email protected]!). Her pointed approach accentuates Eaton’s loosey-goosey style.
More than making us laugh, the contrast these two local stand-ups have created unwittingly shines a light on what lies at the core of awkward comedy. It may sound self-evident, but good awkward comedy needs to be awkward. That means the jokes won’t always work and part of the beauty of the performance comes from its imperfections. Not just the hits but the misses, too.