Douglas Stafford is a very talented juggler. If that is an interest of yours, if you like juggling, and you’ve got an hour, then you may like this show.
Stafford is pretty good as a magician. If you like sleight of hand, or watching a man swallow a balloon, then you may like this show. (You’ll also need to like gay-flavored jokes about being caught masturbating by your dad.)
Where Stafford’s My Lack of a Social Life isn’t as successful, though, is in the show built up around these talents he’s curated for himself.
Over an hour, and in between juggling and stage magic, Stafford tells us about his life as a performer. He’s not comfortable, yet, telling his own story, though, and that’s one of the challenges some may face when attending a performance. There are jokes (about paedophilia, and bulimia, religious conversions, and circumcision) that need some tighter editing (or editing out all together – maybe the world doesn’t need more paedophilia jokes?), and self-deprecations that are all variations of “I’ve made a huge mistake.” There’s a responsibility to working blue in comedy; the cultural conversation needs to be pushed forward by it – not just shocked into a groan or an uncomfortable chuckle.
Stafford feels he’s doing that. The performance ends on a somber note – a confused story about the seedy underbelly of the magician community that Stafford feels justifies his earlier off-colored jokes. “This is all the start of a conversation,” Stafford tells us, revealing the unsurprising truth that there’s sexism and racism in a group that counts Penn Jillette as a member. But telling us that at the end, and then sending us on our way, isn’t how a conversation works.
Stafford’s jokes aren’t strong enough to be provocative or conversation-starters, and, often, are too confused to even really rise to terrible offense. The paedophilia one is somehow related to bubbles (not the chimp-companion of the late Michael Jackson, but actual bubbles cobbled together with soap, water, and, for some reason, lube?); the bulimia joke arrives as a punctuation to an illusion where Stafford appears to have vomited up a marshmallow he ate; and the story about being caught masturbating by his dad is illustrated by Stafford simultaneously fellating and eating a balloon and I thought, “Well, Stonewall was a long time ago.”
Stafford is skilled at the physical parts of his act. I also think he has the potential to build a show that complements his juggling and magic. My Lack of a Social Life is a very rough draft of that later show.
Running Time: 60 minutes, with no intermission.
Check other reviews and show previews on DCMetroTheaterArts’ 2017 Capital Fringe Page