Joseph Morpurgo became my favourite stand up comedian the night I saw his third show, Soothing Sounds For Baby, at The Invisible Dot in King’s Cross. It was an incredible piece of comedy, a mix of so many styles which made me laugh an insane amount – the most I ever have in my life – and Chris Morris was in the audience that night and it’s rumoured he left in tears knowing that he was no longer the funniest man in the country. Now I’ve just made that up, admittedly, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it were true.
Morpurgo’s fourth show, Hammerhead is almost as good as Soothing Sounds, and sees Morpurgo as a pretentious actor / writer / director who’s supposedly just performed a one man version of Frankenstein (taking on all 85 characters, performing in 12 languages, with 7 breeds of live stock and a scene which is officially Grade II listed) and is now hosting a Q&A where audience members, people on social media, and even users of defunct messenger services can ask him about the production.
At first he’s overly brash about just how amazing his take on Mary Shelley’s classic novel is, commenting that 80% of the original novel is awful, so he spent a very, very long time improving upon it. But as the show continues cracks start to appear in his confidence and it becomes apparent that the show may not be quite as good as he claims, what with bad reviews, funding issues, a catastrophe on the first night meaning they lost sound effects, costumes and an usher, and Morpurgo becomes increasingly upset by the lack of proper questions.
It’s a show which is incredibly dense when it comes to the concepts it explores, from the fragile ego of the auteur to the way theatre can go terribly wrong, but it also plays around with a lot of other ideas and Morpurgo is a comedian who fires on all cylinders at all times, and then invents a few more so that his work is never less than stunning and impressively varied. So one joke might be smart and thought provoking – at one point he claims that one of his characters is “The Concept of Wet” – but only a short while later he’s telling us about an individual whose catchphrase is the ridiculously daft “Did somebody say strudel?” and he flits between different styles of humour with amazing ease.
I saw it live at the Soho Theatre and sometimes a second viewing of a show may disappoint as you know what’s coming, but with Morpurgo the opposite applies, if anything it’s even funnier as his manic performance ramps up the laughs to a frenzied extent, and the way his brain works amazes me as he has the ability to make me laugh for almost the entire hour. If you have any interest in comedy at all I’d recommend joining NextUp so that you can watch it, and then after it I’m sure that like me you’ll spend every available hour you have begging them to record his three previous shows.
NextUp – The Stand Up Comedy Streaming Site.