Review by Paige Meintzer, photography by Lightbox.
Before attending Alternate, I was admittedly more than skeptical about what to expect. I had never been to a stand-up comedy show prior to this one, and I definitely believed some of the negative perceptions that are associated with them. Yet, this show kept me laughing unrestrainedly throughout. Needless to say, Joe Irvine and I share the same sense of humor (though he is undoubtedly better at articulating it than me).
The night began by walking into the Byre bar and getting a pre-show drink with friends who were also attending (which I think loosened us all up for some even louder laughter). We then sat down to watch the opening act, which featured another budding comedian, Tom Caruth. Even though he had to check his script a few times on stage, he was a hilarious start to the show. He insisted that he could do a perfect impression of any Star Wars character in any accent, but then always slyly maintained that he had heard someone say “Chewbacca” when asking the audience for impersonation ideas. He also proceeded to do the same “rawr” for every accent requested.
Joe came on next with an unidentified blue drink in hand, and a picture of himself taped to the straw, which he referred to as “Joe and Tonic”. He went on to introduce himself, eventually revealing through a feigned conversation with his father that he had no real job, and had adopted the role of a Soviet spy in the hope of not giving away his financial situation. He answered his father with such responses as “Who is Joe?” and “Oh, I only wish this Cold War would end, Father…”. He finally admitted that he would like his parents to transfer money into his account and then rapidly hung up (which was probably a little too relatable to us all).
He continued to mock his own lack of employment during a fake interview with a Burger King manager in which he wanted to prove that he had “character” as, jokingly, it would be logical for such an interviewer to desire. Meanwhile, he answered every question from the perspective of an egotistical fictional warlord, also known as “the only master of buns”, and “the conqueror of burgers”. He ended his act sarcastically by pondering to his audience as to why he didn’t get the position.
Most of Joe’s jokes seemed, in fact, to work to a similar purpose of light-heartedly mocking aspects of his life and society that were inevitably relatable in some way or another. In turn, this forced us to all laugh at ourselves a bit in the best way possible. Following his employment jokes, Joe sarcastically mused on the fact that as well as not being employed, he does not have the “perfect” body. However, he later recalled that he used to, and went on to describe that body as a mannequin. Such a comparison seemed, albeit a little absurd, realistic for the most part - until he said that his perfect, muscular form was complete with no arms and legs.
In a similar vein, Joe mocked the way people perceive his sexuality by recalling a real experience in which someone asked him what it was like to be in a gay relationship. He responded that it was “great”, and that he loved to go to “gay dinners” and on “gay dates”. One joke that had me in stitches was his observation that “edgy”, “nihilistic” postcards in shops appear to be trendy now, and so he recreated some of his own to show the audience. One of these was a picture of a cartoon kitten with a caption which read “WHY?”, and another was a photo of the 1937 Hindenburg disaster with the caption “Could be worse”.
He ended his act by imagining himself talking to shorter and shorter versions of himself, which resulted in him snaking along the floor on his stomach while the audience shouted out such things as “Ooh… socks and sandals? Would not have been my style of choice…” I found Joe Irvine absolutely hilarious, and would undoubtedly recommend going to see him in action the next time he takes to the stage in St Andrews.