Joseph Cullen’s comedic alter ago has PTSD. Not from time spent in the military or a tragic accident, but from time spent as a children’s entertainer. If he were Jean-Paul Sartre, he would rephrase Huis Clos to say “Hell is other people’s children.”
Dressed in a Princess Leia outfit (in honour of the late-Carrie Fisher) Cullen interweaves a diverse range of cultural references – partially as puns or jokes in their own right, but also as proof of ‘six degrees of separation’ between everything (Battle of Agincourt, Henry V, Shakespeare and so on). Cullen’s understated, but far-thinking use of disparate references reminds me of watching Eddie Izzard in his early stand-up career.
As a ‘dour’ character, the wry outlook of Cullen’s ‘entertainer’ is perfect for making barbed comments about everything, but because he’s relatively laid back most of the time, it isn’t monotonous or bitter.
As you would expect, children feature prominently in Cullen’s routine, though in between the feigned disdain for them, lie observations about when does ‘childishness’ end and maturity begin, and the ‘entertainer’s’ obstinance about who’s to blame for a ‘unwanted’ pregnancy.
I think I can confidently say you won’t another comedian that references Ivan Denisovich, St Crispin’s Day and Carl Douglas’ Kung-Fu Fighting within the same routine.
© Michael Davis 2018
You Having Olaf? ran at the Vault Festival on 26th January.