Your humble narrator took his sweet time about heading into the city for Des Bishop’s show Des Bishop Likes to Bang. I’ve never seen any of his shows, ever, so the reason why I’d opted to see him live was well and truly in the rearview mirror when I was making some Vegemite toast a couple hours before his gig. At the time I was concocting a plan to make the whole review up, perhaps by poaching a bit of content from that guy who’s reviewing 150 shows on The Age and jazzing it up with a few F-bombs, when I had a minor anxiety attack about making rent. At that point, seeing Des Bishop became like a symbol of normality. Normal people don’t lie in bed and watch Louie on a Saturday night. They go out with their friends and see some guy make jokes.
So I initially planned to a) enjoy the show and b) write about it using stock reviewing phrases that one can string together with the same amount of mental exertion required for a game of Doodle Jump. An in-and-out job. That way, when I got stoned and “stumbled” across this piece later, I wouldn’t feel intense self-loathing at the bizarro angle and charmlessly narcissistic, quasi-autistic tone. It’d just be another review by an intern who grows moist upon hearing the words bar tab. Despite this, on the tram, I tinkered with the idea of framing the review as an over-sharing parable about depression and youthful aimlessness, which is what everyone seems to be doing these days. I could make it really meta, like Adaptation, or that episode of Community, or every half-quarter-finished novel that litters my path into man-childhood. Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t enter The Hi-Fi expecting Likes to Bang to be a cum-guzzling comedic failure, just so I could rip on it via some quirky non-review. I thought if the show was good, I could cap my non-review with a pat resolution in which I rediscovered the immense beauty of this cosmic joke. That’s what comedy is for, right? I guess I just wanted Bishop to make me happy. Well, he didn’t. His show was incredibly depressing. Example: a joke about his actual problems with intimacy and relationships: “you all find it funny now, but later in my hotel room, I’m going to cry about it…”. I know it’s terrible form to reveal punchlines in a review, so here goes: “…on a groupie’s tits”.
It’s the kind of predictable content that belongs to MSN after-school group chats circa 2004. Bishop’s subjects – hotel rooms, hair dye, rough sex – are all pretty superficial, and he never really penetrates them. He replaces observation with repeating the punchline at ever-increasing volumes, covering up the fact that he’s groping for his segway by shouting like an Irish-American Dane Cook. Oh yeah – at least 50% of the crowd was Irish. He’s really big over there, according to Des Bishop. I didn’t think I could feel much more alienated from humanity until he launched into a twenty-minute bit about working visas. The point is, at least half the crowd loved him, with the fervour one derives from seeing a television personality talk about menstrual sex.
In all his well-practiced movements and carefully pitched screaming, Bishop doesn’t ever really look like he’s genuinely enjoying himself. He’s self-obsessed, but not self-aware, and certainly never self-deprecating. Who am I to judge, though? I don’t even know him. He’s probably a really awesome guy to hang out with. And it’s not like I’m a critic or anything. So I sunk a second glass of wine and thought about whether I’d give the show 5 stars or 6.
Words: Josh Harris