Best known as the surly, cantankerous bookseller in Black Books, a TV series first produced in 2000 that then developed a cult following, Dylan Moran’s schtick as a stand-alone comic trades a lot on his erstwhile persona. Indeed, as it was in his latest tour to Melbourne, Moran’s on stage performance can appear inseparable to his role as Bernard Black.
They both share the shambolic mien, the perpetual grumpiness and the casual misanthropic worldview. In fact, the title of this particular production, We Got This, felt distinctly at odds with the material that came in dribs and drabs from Moran. It’s a phrase that normally inspires confidence, but here the show revealed more of the Irish comedian’s confusion about changes and progress in modern society. More than once he talked ironically about the trials of being a white, middle-aged, middle-class man in a world beset by gender fluidity and neurodiversity. Back when he was growing up, he reminded his audience (which ranged in age from 20 to 60-plus), men voted conservative, died of avoidable diseases and listened to Eagles covers.
Moran’s maudlin and desultory routine lacked cohesion and a clear narrative. Sometimes his one-liners hit home; other times you had to struggle to understand what his point actually was, so rambling was his delivery. When he introduced a keyboard to the proceedings, there was hope that the lacklustre tempo may become a bit more upbeat but, despite having a good voice, Moran is no musician. He relies, he pointed out, on the bass function, as he haphazardly pushed some keys and sang above the noise. Talk of gaining (and losing) sobriety garnered sympathetic responses from the crowd but disappointingly, for a showman of his calibre, there was no real heart or sustained storytelling in this stop/start, self-indulgent delivery.
We Got This lacked incisive, insightful commentary; the penis jokes and comments about the differences between men and women just seemed tired and uninspired. Listening to Moran hold forth about a range of topics, it seemed as though he was out of touch and struggling to remain relevant. The whole show actually felt like a montage of Grampa Simpson shaking his fist at the clouds – the meme that attests to a failure to understand and control one’s personal life or wider environment. More tragic than funny.
Dylan Moran: We Got This was performed at Hamer Hall from 21-23 April 2023 as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.