I have a very dark and cynical sense of humour and I love the sitcom Black Books so naturally I was interested when it was announced that the series’ star, Dylan Moran, was touring Singapore, however, it initially became a bit of an afterthought when I figured I’d probably end up attending alone. Not many people here know who he is, a few British friends of mine were interested in going, but the tickets were quite expensive and we figured he’d need to tone down his absurd, drearily pessimistic, profanity-laden act in order to be able to perform in Singapore. A few weeks after the tour’s announcement, Anna and I were having a couple of drinks at my local with some friends and the topic of Dylan Moran’s show’s came up. Several of us were talking about how funny he was so Anna suggested we get tickets, figuring it would still be good even if he couldn’t be his true self; she really enjoyed it when we saw Moran’s Black Books co-star Bill Bailey‘s performance earlier in the year so she booked seats for us, as well as for our friend, TJ Godiaco, on the spot that night. The only problem was that Anna and TJ had no idea what to expect from the show until his performance began, but for those who are also unfamiliar with Moran’s comedic stylings, this should give you the general idea:
Moran’s live stand-up comedy is unique in that it merges two strands of stand-up that seemed incompatible for a long time: sharp observational humor, and surreal and fantastical language-based absurdity. On the one hand, he has a clear influence from what could be called an American school of stand-up comedy that is heavily observational. On the other hand, Moran’s comedy is characterized by a use of language similar to the stand-up comedy of Eddie Izzard and Ross Noble: surreal associative leaps between on the one side observations and on the other fantasies, verbally painting bizarre and absurd worlds, often through a use of stream-of-consciousness narration. His language is often highly poetic, resembling a James Joyce that has had one too many.
Thursday, December 12, 2019
It was the day of the show and I awoke to a message from Anna asking me to get a reservation for dinner at around 6:30pm. Moran would be performing at the University Cultural Centre at the National University of Singapore at 8:00pm, the same location as when Bill Bailey toured, and the university is kind of in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by parks and freeways, but not a lot of eating options so Anna was worried the ones that did exist would be packed before the show. I googled restaurants near the Cultural Centre and it turned out that on campus there was an Italian restaurant, a couple of small hawker stalls, Subway, and the rest was mainly just regular canteen food, but there was one other option that stood out; Waa Cow!, a Japanese rice bowl restaurant so I made a reservation for three people at 6:30pm.
Anna arrived home from work and we were soon on our way to the university. The restaurant was harder to find than we first expected, because there was no direct route through the school to get to it despite it being located on campus so we had to take winding roads and freeway overpasses to get there. TJ’s driver got lost trying to get there, but he still arrived before us, texting me to not worry, because there was only three other people inside. It turns out the booking wasn’t necessary, but we were still committed to the place and it was an option we definitely wouldn’t regret. Waa Cow!’s Facebook page describes them as being “Singapore’s First Flame-torched 🔥 Donburi! Period,” but even that seems to be selling themselves a bit short. When I was a college student, the food available on campus was terrible, it was just anything that could be deep-fried or hamburgers. Japanese rice bowls with flame-torched wagyu beef and foie gras simply weren’t an option at my school, yet here it was on the NUS campus and it was fantastic, although some student reviews complained about the price. There were options besides beef, but that was their specialty so we each got one with a different sauce, sides, as well as a plate of scallop sashimi and immediately Anna was checking out if they deliver to our area. I have no idea how these are essentially school dinners!:
It didn’t take long to finish our food so we had almost an hour before the show was to start, but it took about 10 minutes to walk to the Cultural Centre, which really wasn’t that far away, but there was also no direct walking route through the campus, either. Once we arrived, however, the first thing I noticed was that most of the people in attendance were like me; middle-aged, white men who immediately headed to the bar in the lobby. I did exactly that as well while the other two went to the bathroom and I looked like a peasant as I blew my last $15.00 (US$11.10) in a combination of notes and coins on a single small beer. The man ahead of me in the bar queue was standing in front of the menu so I stood slightly off to the side to read another menu up the back and when I went to order, a very pretentious British-Chinese woman behind me gave me an irritated look, sighed, and said sarcastically “Oh, so you ARE in the line.” I just ignored her and got my drink, laughing to myself as she condescendingly made her order, pronouncing every word clearly in short, sharp sentences for fear they wouldn’t understand her. “I’ll have a double shot of whiskey in a tall glass. On ice. With water, filled to the brim. To. The. Brim.” The bar staff tried to take her order seriously, but at a live event you can’t have a tall glass, she just got a slightly different shaped plastic cup to the one in which my beer was served, a drink which I took to an area where I could sit on the floor and wait for Anna and TJ. When they came out of their respective toilets the pair of them realised that they had no cash so they went to find an ATM and about 20 minutes later I got a call from Anna. “Meet me outside, go out the door and turn right.” I asked why and the reply was a simple, “Just do it” so I decided not to inquire anymore and just follow orders. Once there I learnt that the ATM they had found wouldn’t accept either of their cards so they decided go a different route and try something I haven’t done in at least 20 years — They went to an on-campus supermarket and bought a heap of booze with the intention of smuggling it into the venue inside their bags. They bought three big beers for me and six miniature bottles of airline-quality red wine for themselves, saving us a ton of money by avoiding the ridiculous bar prices in the process. I seriously hadn’t tried to do anything like this since I was a penniless teenager trying to get beer into music festivals more than two decades ago and now I’m 40 years old and attempting it again at a stand-up comedy show in Singapore. I felt like a kid again, completely rejuvenated at the prospect of the plan! Anna asked if they served wine at the bar, which they did, so she went over and grabbed a couple of plastic cups, then snuck into the toilets and returned with cups of wine for her and TJ while we stood behind a pole trying as discretely as possible to open a Kilkenny can with a widget and pour it into the remaining cup for myself. We then stood around smirking, talking about how we had secretly stuck it to the man with our boozy Ocean’s Eleven-style escapade, Anna mentioning that she had left the wine bottles next to the sanitary disposal bin in the women’s bathroom. The only problem was we now didn’t have a whole lot of time, however, we had a fair bit of alcohol that we couldn’t take to our seats and it would be confiscated if they did bag checks so we had to drink quickly. The three of us stood in a uncrowded area, constantly chugging and refilling our drinks, leading to Anna and TJ finishing two 250ml (8.5 fl. oz.) bottles of cheap and nasty red wine each, while I finished off a 500ml (17 fl. oz) Kilkenny and a 750ml (25.5 fl. oz.) Asahi can in about 10 minutes. There was still more wine and another large Asahi, but there was no way we could finish it all in a couple of minutes like I could’ve at the end of last century so we had to try and sneak them into the theatre, soon seeing other people attempting the same thing. We saw others wrapping paper bags around small bottles and stuffing them in their purses, but we also noticed that the cafe staff near us really didn’t care that we were throwing our bottles and cans in a bin labeled “Cafe waste only.” We decided just to put the extra bottles and cans in our bags and lined up, figuring the security might give them back afterward if they were confiscated, but they didn’t even check our bags, we just made our way to our seats. Once seated, TJ told me he was feeling a bit tipsy, I was bloated and doing foie gras-scented burps, and Anna took a nap until Dylan Moran stepped on stage, but once he started he was hilarious:
It wasn’t a full house, but it was a great show. Moran spoke for about 35 minutes before an intermission where we were given passes so we could go back into the lobby. There were plenty of people who had tried the same plan as us that night, many standing around during the intermission and drinking the alcohol they had snuck in, a vast array of different brands of beer that weren’t being sold at the venue and barely a plastic cup in sight so we finished ours as well, the security guards watching us nonchalantly the entire time. Once back inside, Moran spoke for another 30 minutes, but he didn’t tame his show just because he was in Singapore. He was his usual crass self, moaning about age, technology, and travel among other topics, but his sometimes vulgar delivery wasn’t for everyone. It seems that some local attendees mustn’t have even known who he was because quite a few brought young children with them! Others left early with several re-entry passes just left deserted on the floor and seats of the lobby during the intermission.
I recorded the audio for the show, however, I missed the first minute or so when he was bitching about shopping malls and the price of goods in Singapore. You can listen to it here, but it is a little difficult to hear, plus his thick Irish accent may cause it to be even harder to make out, this guy would struggle to use Siri or Alexa:
The show was all finished before 10:00pm so once we were done the three of us caught a cab back to the pub for a nightcap, then I took the dog for a walk where she rolled in another decomposing rat carcass, requiring us to shower her multiple times in order to reduce the pungency of the smell, an awful way to complete an otherwise great night.
If you’re a fan of pessimistic humour with a linguistic delivery and Dylan Moran is in town, just go. But leave the kids at home.