to the wall: an unusual education

lucy hawthorne

Andy Jones, To the Wall

Andy Jones, To the Wall

Andy Jones, To the Wall

A pulpit and priestly vestments await Andy Jones on the stage. Religion is almost a compulsory subject for comedians today so I am not in the least bit surprised. As the spotlight focuses on the short, stocky and balding man, Jones takes on an evangelical persona and quickly establishes the character of the show.

Describing his Irish Catholic upbringing in Newfoundland, Jones colourfully re-enacts a ‘psychotic’ priest, childhood memories and the odd Newfoundland-Irish character with the help of projections. He calls a meeting in the theatre to which he invites God, suggests new additions to the human body (such as sexually attractive thermostats making visible emotional fluctuations), and uses a Newfoundland beef bucket as a metaphor for the randomness of life and the universe.

The premise of the show is that Stephen Hawking has a theory of the universe, however Jones has a better one. So in a one hour show Jones backs up his evolving theory with evidence. This is hard to follow at times with Jones’ liberal borrowings from scientific language, rabbits, randomness, throwing beef buckets of sand to form perfect maps of Newfoundland and Labrador, and finally the formula “TBP (Teddy Bears Picnic) = x [to the power of u to the power of u]” which supposedly created humans.

Funnily enough, many of his arguments seem logical and convincing, thanks in part to his charismatic personality. In fact, at the end of his psychotic priest impression, when he makes the sign of the cross, he is so convincing that a woman seated in front of me is compelled to follow.

Jones’ theatricalised standup formula is amusing, although at times he
crosses the line into ‘dirty old man’ territory, focusing on projections of female breasts, lusting over the young girls who are his onscreen assistants and making desperate ‘mating’ jokes—especially tiresome after he hands a gift of chocolates to a female audience member willing to confirm his sexism.

Despite these flaws and uninventive use of screen projections, Andy Jones educates a willing audience about the finer points of Newfoundland and its eccentric culture (and the fact that it is built on a rock). He’s convincing as an actor, and the vivid theatrical moments are easily the most amusing parts of his performance. Andy Jones did not make me laugh ‘til I cried, but To the Wall was a unique and entertaining introduction to an island culture on the other side of the earth.

31 March 2007