Review by Thomas Gregory
If there is a show that will have you somehow laughing non-stop while also dying a little inside from second-hand embarrassment, it is Hit a Pigeon With His Bike. Lewis Garnham might not be a name most audiences know, but he is the comedian other comedians go to see, the podcaster you should already be listening to, and not entirely terrible with social media.
It makes sense that other comedians love him; most I get to know will walk off stage, forgetting how to be human. Human interactions are awkward, and if you think too hard about our social norms, they will make less and less sense. With his brilliantly insightful wit, Garnham digs down on the dumb decisions we make in our quest to avoid embarrassment, even when those same decisions increase the embarrassment we might experience later.
Much of Garnham’s jokes are sourced from his work as a teacher’s aide, but it is never the children that are the butt of the joke. If anything, his reverence for the students he works with makes you think he would be great at his job if only he could keep up academically. Meanwhile, material that superficially sounds stale (eg/older people struggling with technology) is offered in such a new light that it makes you rethink all those stereotypes previous comedians have created for us.
Of course, the best thing about Hit a Pigeon With His Bike is how damn polished it is. Promising us he will tell of the time he called a teacher “mum”, Garnham takes a journey diverting through his father’s hidden secrets about fish and chips, what it is like living in a share house, and, yes, that sad time he hit a pigeon with his bike. Each anecdote blends seamlessly into the one before it, and we soon discover that each early joke is also the set-up for another just around the corner. Garnham bounces excitedly around the stage as he tells this story, dragging us in and out with his segues of “oh, you’ve got to know this” and “which is why”s.
With such a title, of course, there must be a moment of tragedy, made worse by a backstory that would bring any empathetic person to tears in another setting. Rather than become a downer, though, this story only highlights how human these tales are and how the absurdity of embarrassment is something we can both relate to and laugh at.
It is only at the incredible climax of Lewis Garnham’s story do we realise that every anecdote, every joke, it all was leading up to that one incredible time he made a fool of himself in front of a class he was supposed to be helping. This final story is even captivating enough that for a moment, I forgot that multiple times throughout the night, he reminded us of how it would end.
Of course, it is only looking back that I can notice just how perfectly structured this show is, how clever some of the narrative techniques are, and how carefully crafted Garnham produced each and every line. At the moment, I have no time to consider such things, only enjoy the show with grimaces and laughs. In the end, isn’t this the sign of a true artist? Only making us take note of their abilities after we leave the show, belly aching, asking, “how could one man be so funny?”
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing many great shows at this comedy festival, from newcomers to favourites I refuse to miss. While the festival is far from over, it’s a safe bet to say Lewis Garnham will be my highlight of MICF 2023.