Since embarking on his stand-up career in 2007 in a Los Angeles comedy club, Joel Dommett has acquired a loyal fan base. This was evidenced by a request at the end of last night’s show by a lady in the front row requesting he perform the ‘childhood rap’; a piece involving playing back a song he wrote on his mobile phone which as a 30 year old, he now mocks. Much as the audience found the rap hilarious, I felt like Dommett sold himself short by throwing the end of the set to the audience. He has a great deal of solid material, and didn't need to turn to an 'old faithful' to pad out the final 5 minutes. As an audience member familiar with his previous work, it was a tad frustrating, however that said, overall “Live” was a treat of an hour, and this is a very minor point.
With a confident, yet self deprecating demeanour, Dommett never struggles to ‘befriend’ his audience. We are drawn into the stories of situations everyone has been through, and his clever use of set-up and callback maintained the energy and pace of the set. There was a particularly amusing moment involving a latecomer, where Dommett referenced the material he had shared to that point, linking it seamlessly with a simple but slick one liner. It showed how versatile he can be, an impressive ability to think on his feet and adapt to situations as they arise. Joel is an excellent storyteller, last night sharing tales of past girlfriends, dating traumas and his family history. He portrays himself as the 'misfit' amongst family, the unsuccessful suitor and the vulnerable teen, and whether his stories are true or not, Dommett endears himself to his audience. He is excitably youthful; bouncing and “roly-polying” (he hasn't used the word since he was 7!) across the stage to punctuate a self proclaimed good joke or two!
The way Joel physicalises his stories is both highly entertaining, and a clever device which adds an extra layer to the act. I've always felt when a performer is working with a bare black box stage, there's an additional challenge in holding your audience, and Dommett takes us with him throughout. He works the stage, left to right, acknowledging his entire audience equally which is crucial when creating the warm atmosphere he seems to want during his set. From his internet dating disaster to DVD watching with dad; the use of pause and pace through mime and gesture builds a sense of anticipation, allowing Dommett to control the timing of his stories to encourage maximum impact upon his audience. He clearly pays attention to the responses he gets at the smaller gigs he plays, and uses them as research to shape and structure his work. Comedians who have the foresight and determination to master their craft will always move forward, and Dommett has proved his awareness of progression and development with each of his full length shows.
This evening’s performance was entertaining and committed. There's no disputing Joel Dommett is a funny, warm and accessible performer, with excellent material. My previous comment regarding the end of the hour is really a subjective point, and I am especially picky when I respect a comedian’s work. As I said, the material is strong, I just felt he was doing himself an injustice in an hour that really reached a 4 on the Dommett scale.
Joel Dommett takes his new show, “Pretending to Smoke with a Breadstick” to the Edinburgh fringe festival from 3-26th August at the Pleasance Courtyard. I highly recommend dropping by!