Greg “Fleety” Fleet has remained an unlikely fixture of the Australian stand-up comedy scene for decades, a meandering raconteur whose anecdotes flow thick and fast and often involve unintended mayhem. Fleet’s experience working crowds and getting audiences on side despite risqué material – most notably a surfeit of jokes about being a former heroin junkie – are obvious from the get-go, but have always seemed more instinctual than practised.
His show Ten Years in a Long-Sleeved Shirt, which reminisced on years of shooting junk and hassling people for money, turned some heads when it premiered in 1996. The Boy Who Cried Sober is a kind of belated sequel in which the now middle-aged performer analyses the veracity of the things he said back then and stacks on more jokes about operating as a high functioning addict.
An odd blend of comedy and confessional, the latter sometimes coming at the expense of the former, Fleet quickly earns goodwill from his unflinching honesty, which will come as no surprise to anybody familiar with his work. A slightly disquieting sense of pathos lingers between the punch lines; while it’s obvious Fleet is grateful to his former self for nuggets of storytelling gold such as interviewing April Lavigne while off his face, there is also a sense his personal and professional life has suffered more screw-ups than even the Gods of comedy can excuse.
Fleety is in top form when he focuses on his best material rather than his most contextualised, so his decision to stay “on message” isn’t necessarily a virtue. But as a funny warts and all portrait of an off the rails existence, The Boy Who Cried Sober won’t disappoint.
Greg Fleet in The Boy That Cried Sober is playing at Melbourne Town Hall, Monday 7pm, Tuesday to Saturday 9:30pm and Sunday 8:30pm from March 28 to April 21.