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Michael Shafar: A Work in Progress - Melbourne Fringe Review

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by Aridhi Anderson (subscribe)
Aridhi Anderson is a theatremaker, performer and reviewer based in Melbourne. Check out her work at
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Intelligent, sophisticated, and very funny stand up comedy
Laughter is the best medicine. Or is it? In his latest stand up comedy show, lawyer-turned-comedian, Michael Shafar, explores an unusually serious subject: cancer. When he first introduced the subject, I was sceptical and a little in dread, because cancer and comedy are not words that normally sit together well in my mind. But Shafar blew my concerns out of the water with a stunning, sensitive, and frankly brilliant performance. He simultaneously affirmed the seriousness of the disease while also drawing out heartfelt laughter by highlighting the humour in some of the associated experiences: no easy task.

Michael Shafar: A Work in Progress.
Michael Shafar: A Work in Progress.

Shafar has created this show from a place of first-hand experience, and he tells his truth intelligently and with dignity. His ability to find humour in the darkest situations is exceptional: his jokes were consistently classy and covered a range of cancer experiences: treatment, fundraising, the fear of death, the prospect of potential infertility, baldness, and perhaps trickiest of all, dealing with people's well-meaning but annoying reactions to the news.

This show is about more than just cancer, though. There are side-servings of jokes about things like childhood experiences, alternative medicine, animals, hugs, and a topic Shafar is known for, jokes about being Jewish (the night I attended, for example, was what he described as the holiest day in the Jewish calendar: Yom Kippur AND Cheap Tuesday!).

Shafar is an extremely likeable performer. His punchlines are witty, his delivery is sophisticated, and his pace is tight. There is warmth and humility in his demeanour: he is very tuned in to his audience's reactions to his jokes and ensures that the show is always enjoyable and never too heavy. About this particular work, he emphasises that it is a trial show and that he wants to take on audience feedback about which bits to keep - but honestly, I think the show was pretty fantastic how it was. The hour just flew past, and the audience never stopped laughing.

Michael Shafar: A Work in Progress is running at the Lithuanian Club (The Loft) from 14-21 September as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival 2018.
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Why? An excellent stand up show with intelligent jokes and a ton of laughs.
When: 14-21 September 2018
Phone: (03) 9660 9666
Where: Fringe Hub: Lithuanian Club (The Loft), 44 Errol St, North Melbourne
Cost: $20
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