I didn’t find out until after the show that Alexis Dubus was in fact Marcel Lucont – or should that be vice versa? – the French cynic I remember seeing on Russell Howard’s Good News. As well as the initial surprise that I’d just sat through his entire set without realising this, it struck me how bizarre it must be to have an alter ego more famous than you are. This isn’t an unusual state of affairs in the comedy world, but it was odd to watch the entire thing without recognising him. Marcel Lucont’s Wine List is on at the Pleasance Dome, and it’s twelve quid to get in. This show, Alexis Dubus Versus the World is free and in a venue called Voodoo Rooms.
It was a good venue though – well, our voodoo room was, I assume from the venue’s plural title that there are more voodoo rooms. With a bar at the side and plenty of space for seats, it’s just what you want for an intimate stand-up set. Although this wasn’t stand-up, Dubus made that very clear; it’s advertised in the program as spoken word. That way if the comedy doesn’t work, he’ll at least fulfil the promise of the genre by speaking words. But the comedy did work – as did the poetry. It was a fantastic set.
The first poem was about becoming a comic; lots of the pieces were about personal experiences, from staying in a hostel to receiving a massage in a Singapore airport. And, in the latter, he proved to have an excellent singing voice too. My favourite was a piece called “Things You Didn’t Need to Say”, which was about pedantry – and actually made me want to be a pedant more often. The piece got downright surreal as it went on, as all the best things do. Come to think of it, so did the set.
In between poems and songs he shared anecdotes, which was basically a stand-up routine without, as he himself stated, the punchlines. The best story was about an Australian asking him whether or not his snack was “weird”, and how this led to an existential crisis. Everything is weird if you look at it for long enough. A man walking a dog is just two animals on either end of a lead.
As far as comparisons with Marcel Lucont go, there aren’t many. The only thing I can see in both performances is Dubus’ desire to make the usual seem unusual. But not in a typical “observational” comedy way – in a more wordy and linguistic manner. Well, what do you expect from a spoken word gig? And it is a first-rate spoken word performance – I can only hope it achieves the heights of his French alter ego.