‘Ravenous’ was scoff-worthy.
Going off the promotional image and title for his sophomore show ‘Ravenous,’ I assumed Samuel Brookfield was a loud, aggressive, counter-culture style comedian. So imagine my surprise when the show he presented was a largely measured exercise in the comedy of overthinking and a framing device surrounding a piece of 14th century literature. Sure, Brookfield displays anger and frustration and in fact has an entire section dedicated to things he hates, but he’s far from the aggressive, “don’t give a frick”-style attitude that his admittedly limited promotional material indicates. But more to the point, he is funny.
Presented as part of the ‘Good Chat Comedy Fest,’ Brookfield drew the unfortunate straw of a Monday night performance on September the 11th, a fact he doesn’t shy away from mentioning. Nonetheless, he was unwilling to let this down, and managed to work an initially lukewarm crowd up to some hefty laughs over the course of his hour-long set.
Samuel Brookfield is a Brisbane based nurse and social scientist, and the latter comes into play quite a bit in his approach to comedy. One of his best strengths as a performer is simplifying complex ideas down to simple one-to-five-word explanations. He describes cult-leaders as “committing to the bit,” and a belief in a higher power as “cringe” while managing to summon an overwhelming amount of monologue when discussing oranges.
‘Ravenous,’ by Brookfield’s own admission, isn’t quite finished. At the top of the piece, he acknowledged that it was a work-in-progress show that he simply refused to market as such due to a desire to set expectations high. If he hadn’t said that though, it would be hard to tell. The only things that make it seem a little cobbled together were some awkward segues and a lack of a consistent throughline. The latter is not even totally necessary, it’s just in sharp disparity with the marketing of the show, which states that Brookfield is exploring “what we are doing here” and “why the universe’s vibes are off.” Neither of which are questions Brookfield even attempts to pretend to answer.
In fact the main framing device of Brookfield’s act is Dante’s Inferno and an exploration of hell, and maybe the next step in this act is to double down on that, since it’s clear how fascinated by it Brookfield is and he gets a lot of mileage from it. This framing device gave the show a good deal of cohesion where it was otherwise very loosely linked together.
As a performer, Brookfield has some great material to work with, and when he feels passionately about something and has a clear goal for a bit, his delivery thrives. Since he is still working out his comedic voice, however, he did occasionally lose some confidence and backstep on himself. While his body language could sometimes reflect this, Brookfield never let it affect his delivery or pacing in any significant way. His performing style is totally self-contained. “Pure” standup as a traditionalist might call it, without any effects, costumes, or crowd work. Brookfield is just a guy standing up and being funny.
Samuel Brookfield is next headed to Sydney Fringe, after debuting ‘Ravenous’ for the first time here in Brisbane. As a first iteration of an act, ‘Ravenous’ is a solid hour of standup that can only be tightened and improved upon from here.
‘Ravenous’ performed on 11 September, 2023 at Good Chat Comedy Club and will next perform on 16-17 September, 2023 at Factory Theatre. For more information visit the Sydney Fringe website.