|If you only knew Wil Anderson from such TV shows asThe Glass House and The Gruen Transfer, you could be forgiven for consigning him to a box marked “Smug Gen-X Wanker”. Clever? Sure. And quick with a comeback? Always. But vulnerable, humble and profound? You must be talking about some other Wil Anderson. Perhaps the one that strolled out onto the stage at the Comedy Store on Friday night to bring us his much lauded, Helpmann-winning show, Man vs Wil. For while this Wil Anderson may bear a striking physical resemblance to the one you’ve watched at home, there’s this uncanny Invasion-Of-The-Body-Snatchers type of sensation that his essence has been sucked out and replaced with… well someone else entirely. A vegetarian cat lover who thinks he could be “just a little bit gay” and is terrified of horses, to be precise.Well, whoever this guy is, he’s damn funny. Over a decade on the comedy circuit has moulded Wil Anderson into a consummate performer. He truly understands the craft of setting up and building a joke just right, so that the payoff will leave us with a real belly-buster. What’s most endearing about this Wil is he’s not afraid to look like a wimp or a loser – if there’s a laugh involved for the audience then he’s more than happy for it to be at his expense. It makes a refreshing change from the ever increasing pool of comedians out there who prefer to take driving pot shots at the rest of humanity. Instead Wil is happy to dive in and take the bullet on our behalf. Bless!Man vs Wil is a personal show on many levels. We hear of Wil facing his fears in order to woo the woman he loves; confessing the ethical reasons why he can’t get off on porn; and even why Righty is so much better than Lefty when it comes to making sweet love to, er, well, himself. So, it’s “intimate” to say the least.
There’s something more meaningful here too, in between the jokes about Americans and how to get the most out of long-haul flights. Wil wants us to GROW. You can feel it. It’s in the way that he pushes this mostly mainstream audience into uncomfortable territory and pleads with them to dip their toe into the in-between places, the murky shades of grey.
When it’s curtain time, I find I’m left with a warm and fuzzy projection. It’s Wil, and he’s home alone in his little flat snuggled up with his three purring moggies, reading the Kinsey Report to them; and possibly musing on the peculiarities of gender constructs in the Western world. Now there’s nothing possibly smug or wankerish about that.
Token Events presents
Venue: The Comedy Store
This review first appeared on Australian Stage August 2011