Rhys James: Wiseboy

★★★
comedy review | Read in About 2 minutes
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Rhys James
Published 13 Aug 2017

Rhys James's show begins with audio of his parents mocking him for calling his show Wiseboy. That title helpfully indicates the comfortable swagger that defines his delivery, while the mockery highlights his discomfort with such strutting. It neatly outlines what will follow – a well-performed set that is not always coherent in tone or theme.

Ostensibly this is a show about karma, and James ruminates on why it should be that good deeds are only valued if they are assumed to result in payback. A sequence about his embarrassment concerning how he could help a homeless man he repeatedly encounters points towards a comic examination of moral complexity. So it's unfortunate that this comes quite late on, given that it suggests a more knotty persona. For prior to this much of the material covers typical youth-oriented topics about the move into adulthood which—while not as laddy as that of other comedians—fail to mark James out. Indeed, he notes he's a white performer with a generic white Fringe audience. But acknowledgment is not the same as resolution, and for much of the set the material is untroubling.

And not all of this is worked out. Interactions with punters are not as agile as they could be, and the set's closing punchline is projected onto a screen that is not visible from everywhere in the auditorium. James is a skilled performer with well-honed sequences, but the whole needs more precision if he's going to distinguish himself from all the other white male twentysomethings.