It’s hard not to like Sammy J. He’s got a bird-like appeal that makes his every movement slightly comical on its own. And in a show without his trademark puppets, Potentially still shows Sammy J can hold his own.
Sammy J’s comedic style is similar to that of Adam Hills. Both are crowd-pleasers who somehow manage to get away with dropping the f-bomb but generally avoid offending anybody. Their comedy is also similarly self-deprecating, which would also explain its inoffensiveness: when the perspective of a show is turned inwards, opportunities to offence audience members are reduced, and hence so is their ability to reflect or explain their own attitudes.
That’s perhaps one small complaint with this show: Potentially is a little slow to warm up because it is so kind-hearted. There’s nothing to shock the audience into attention. Still, it takes a certain amount of perseverance and talent for a comedian to nurture a show from something innocuous and simple into something that will have an audience chuckling, and this is Sammy J’s forte.
For this reason, Potentially may not be nearly adventurous enough for some people. But even the most seasoned comedy-festival attendees would be able to see that behind all that inoffensiveness lies one seriously talented comedian.
For one, Sammy J’s ad-libs are blink-and-you’ll-miss-them quick. It’s a rapid-fire display of whip-smart joke-cracking that seems to be the genetic construct of only the best performers. For added fun, Sammy J also has a bird-like ability to make sensual dancing look like an erotic pigeon mating ritual, which he exploits to brilliant effect.
The structure of the show is also beautifully and lovingly crafted, and the songs within the show are quite dazzling displays of playful inventiveness. There’s the standard song-with-a-bunch-of-swearing, which somehow also manages to stay meaningful; a song about a panicked moment of hand-holding with semi-erotic, spiteful undertones; and a song about blimps that (rather impressively) carries perfectly if sung in complete darkness (and of course, within context).
It’s difficult not to miss the puppets, but for all its simplicity and sweetness Potentially showcases the adaptability and talent of one of Australia’s major comedy talents.
Sammy J in Potentially is on at the Arts Centre Melbourne, Tue-Sat 7.30pm, Sun 6.30pm until April 21st.