When a comedian kicks things off by semi-bragging about bad reviews for the show you’re about to see you take it to mean “screw that guy, you folks are gonna love this!” Which of course is exactly what Bruce McCulloch meant when he quoted a recently earned negative review of Young Drunk Punk his one(ish) man show which opened at the NAC last night.
Sadly the reviews he quoted were not far off.
Inspired by his own life, Young Drunk Punk recalls McCulloch’s journey from a teenaged “punk” growing up in Calgary, Alberta to his plaid-filled days in Toronto during the 90s and finally, the father of two living in Hollywood.
The opening itself was a musical number in which McCulloch talk/sang a smattering of pretty uninspired one-liners while dancing around in what I assume was supposed to be a silly dance but which just came off as something I’d seen before and which had since lost its appeal.
This was followed by a stand-up comedy routine which refused to get out of its chair. To be fair there were definitely people laughing-but the force of these guffaws made it seem like they were doing so based on the presupposition that whatever McCulloch was saying must be funny.
The parts of the show that I did enjoy, genuinely, were the little anecdotes he told about life and about growing up. He did so with a sincerity that kept them compelling and with a subtle touch of humour that, unlike the other jumbled bits of the show, actually made me laugh.
Throughout McCulloch was joined on stage by his friend Brian Connelly who provided the musical accompaniment whenever Bruce burst into song. My props go to Brian for his part in the show.
I did not go into the production naïve to McCulloch’s brand of humour. Having watched numerous episodes of The Kids in the Hall, I was expecting absurdity-some of which I’d find hilarious, some of which I’d just find confusing. But I didn’t expect the overall production to fall so flat.
In the end I think maybe it was just a case of having created a show with two too disparate elements that simply failed to gel. The trying-too-hard “comedy” bits overwhelmed the show’s more compelling narrative qualities.
Overall I wouldn’t recommend seeing the show unless you’re a giant McCulloch fan (as was the boisterous gentleman sitting behind me). However if you’d like to try it out for yourself, you can catch it for the next two nights Thursday June 11th and Friday June 12th at 8:00pm in the NAC Studio as part of Canada’s Magnetic North Theatre Festival. Tonight’s show will feature a talkback following the performance.