Michael Shafar was enigmatic and brimming with excitement as he took to the small stage of Casa Mondo at Yagan Square, pumped for the opening night of his new set Getting Better, showing for the first time in Perth as a Fringe performance.
After a few Jewish-orientated quips, we traversed through Shafar’s life with a comical twist. He finds issue with invitations to destination weddings (though believes it’s an efficient way to weed out who your true friends are), and throws out a few one-liners about Emirates and Malaysia Airlines which were perhaps a little on-the-nose for some. He makes comment on various stereotypes, and questions whether one’s primary concern when wearing tight jeans should be whether they may make you “look gay,” or will leave you with a fungal infection and an itchy arse.
The set was rife with Jewish-related jokes, a particular niche of this comedian. Talk of foreskins, gold, Jewish mothers, Jewish sex (or lack thereof), Boxing Day sales, and the taboo of tattoos are hot-topic, and drew bouts of laughter from Jewish and non-Jewish attendees alike. Shafar admitted that Jewish men are meek and their women fierce, and managed a humorous connection with this to Jewish doctors and papsmears.
Relatable Aussie content was interwoven too. If you’ve been the embarrassed Aussie abroad, ashamed of Aussie larrikin behaviour in public, then you can relate to Shafar’s discomfort toward misplaced international Australian pride. If you also deplore the idea of replying “Oi, oi, oi”, to an off-kilter “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie”, fear not, Shafar is with you. He also has an aversion to Fraser Anning, and once joined a Pauline Hanson supporter page for a laugh and some insight into oppositional politics. General consensus? Commodore owners love a bit of Pauline.
Shafar spoke often of his girlfriend of 10 years, Amanda. He once made the mistake of falling asleep before texting her to say goodnight, is conditioned to their combative relationship, and seems prepared soon to take the ‘next step’; marriage (just don’t ask him about it, especially at weddings). Amanda holds the ultimate power one can hold over a partner too – she saved Shafar’s life (and won’t let him forget it).
The comedian told a tale of his grandfather, who was a Holocaust survivor, imprisoned for five years, experiencing horrific ordeals at the hands of his captors. Shafar, only two generations later, is a lactose-intolerant entertainer and acknowledges his self-confessed inferiority in comparison. Though, how do you one-up a Holocaust survivor?
The finale was… lacklustre. Almost as though he’d forgotten something, Shafar paused, thanked the crowd and concluded the evening’s entertainment. Nothing, really, to tie together the last 50 minutes of comedy. He was, however, extremely grateful to the audience for attending his opening night. Perhaps, too, that had some influence on the occasional fumbling and oddly mediocre resolution – opening night is the night to work out the kinks, after all. He did, however, perfectly weave an ongoing anecdote about his mother and her advice in regard to tight jeans, the audience appreciative of its hilarity and delivery.
The content itself was simplistic, keeping close to one-liners and brief anecdotes, sometimes akin to pub jokes with the boys at the local, and often over-explained. Punchlines are generally created to summarise an anecdote and get the audience laughing as they make connections (they did make connections, and laughed heartily), but if you have to explain them, it appears as though you’re underestimating the intelligence of your audience. However, the punchlines when left to be divulged by the audience hit extremely well, as Shafar has excellent timing and cue awareness, and makes a genuine connection with his audience.
Shafar’s Getting Better is worth a watch if there’s not another show you’re already invested in seeing. Perhaps with the addition of some more adventurous and universal content, and a review of the flow of his set, he could be next-level. His growth as a comedian already is evident, though, and there were moments he truly did shine. Shafar is your self-confessed right wing, Caulfield-living, coin-counting Jewish comedian, who’s loving life after surviving testicular cancer, and forgoing the use of his law degree to chase audience applause and live comedy.