The Fringe Encore Series 2017 is currently being presented at the Soho Playhouse. The Series, now in its 12th year, was created to highlight the best productions presented at the New York International Fringe Festival. This year the Fringe Encore Series has been expanded to include some of the finest productions produced in festivals around the world: from Brighton, UK to Hollywood, U.S.A., from Edinburgh, Scotland to Adelaide, Australia and Winnipeg, Canada.
There are a total of 18 shows being presented through 22 October. And this year’s series offers the opportunity for theater audiences to witness cutting-edge ideas and voices of unique works that they would not be able to otherwise enjoy, unless they happened to be visiting Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, or Scotland during their festival seasons.
To open the Encore Series, promoters wisely chose Jimeoin (James Eoin Stephen Paul McKeown), the world-renowned, British-born, Irish stand-up comedian who hails from Adelaide, Australia and jokes about the pronunciation of his own name. He had his own TV show in Australia, then stepped up his game by touring in the UK and globally. He appears in comedy festivals and has countless fans in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. He has been a regular presenter at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival since 1993 to much acclaim. And now Americans are enjoying his stand-up.
Jimeoin’s humor is delivered with effortless aplomb. His winning act is brilliant in its apparently unscripted, ad-lib style. However, his wacked-out, hysterical jokes are layered thematically and develop throughout his presentation. It’s amazing how the “light as air” topics appear to be plucked from a scattershot intellect.
Appearances are deceiving with Jimeoin. What he lays out in the beginning of his act sneaks haphazardly into its middle, disappears, then “bam” shows up again near the conclusion, the slippery theme or issue appearing almost as a casual afterthought. This streakiness has a subtle allure and presents interesting side effects; the audience is totally charmed by the pointed nonsense as well as the commentary about acute, universal human behaviors.
Jimeoin’s facial elasticity, natural physicality, and musicality are integral to his act. For example, he threw in a bit of an Irish jig, gave a spot-on impersonation of Robert De Niro’s smile and facial expressions, and accompanied himself to hyper-crazy-funny self-composed songs. One song was all of two bars of music with the refrain, “What?” And all of this wackiness was developed carefully and timed with precision.
He peppers his observational humor with irony and zeros in on human nature’s wobbly kinks: about our memory lapses, our ready ability to distract ourselves from activities, then forget what we are doing when we attempt to pick up where we left off. His wit targets a range of humanity’s vital signs of living: love, marital relationships, women, men, aging, looks, time, religion. His absurd quips are on one level inane, until in a split second our understanding brings us the deeper, incisive truths beneath all the “fluff.”
Indeed, the source of Jimeoin’s wit is easier to describe (humanity’s rich sillinesses) than his whimsical, riotous humor, which is airy genius. I wasn’t the only audience member rollicking with belly-laughs and guffaws. And we all yearned to hear and see more comedy past the end of the hourlong show. Though his run ended 9 September, he deserves a wider deeper audience at additional venues in New York City.
You will get a taste of Jimeoin at his website as well as his touring dates. If you are heading off to the United Kingdom or to Edinburgh International Festival next year, you will be thrilled to see him live. His stand-up act is one you should not miss.
For a listing of the shows being presented as a part of the Fringe Encore Series 2017 at the Soho Playhouse click here. The series ends 22 October.