I’m not a massive fan of kids, me. I don’t mind them. I don’t mind being around them – people have told me I’m quite good with them, in fact – but the thought of having my own gives me a severe shudder down my spine. Joseph Cullen, returning to the VAULTs Festival with his award-winning show ‘You Having Olaf?’ also shares these anxieties, as he tells us horror stories of his time working with children as a party entertainer.
A mixture of spoken word, song, and stand-up comedy, Cullen enters in a Princess Leia outfit, complete with space buns, his glasses, and curly moustache. It’s fair to say that this is a #look. Around the stage are various props, from an inflatable microphone and pop-up tent (which sadly was only used for one tiny gag) to a cardboard cut-out of One Direction, complete with Niall wearing a Harambe jumper and Liam/Louis’s face covered with a Trump mask. You know, pretty standard.
Cullen is straight-faced, bitter, and resentful – and he’s aware of this. He refers to his time as a children’s entertainer as if he was serving in prison, describing himself as ‘recovering’ and flinching every time ‘kids’ is sung through the speakers, not to mention his (titular) hatred of Frozen. Cullen, or Joe’s, spoken word poetry is hialruous. His poem about needing the toilet at a kids’ party is the highlight of the night for me, as is another about his regrets at “opening that third bottle of wine”.
Cullen’s comedy does walk the line, though again he is aware of this. Sometimes I belly laugh, and other times I feel myself taking a breath and wincing – at moments I feel slightly uncomfortable as I wonder where we’ll be taken next.
He shouts at a detached Zayn Malik cut-out as if it’s a part of his brain and bats the Trump cut-out away with a Light Saber. There’s a cringey reference to Harambe (the shot gorilla-turned-meme) via a ventriloquist act and Cullen even makes a balloon sword for an audience member (sadly not me) proving he still has the skills from his kids party days. Outside of the poetry, I wasn’t sure what was happening, but that didn’t matter really – it was a lot of laughs a good fun.
[side note: was good at the end when he said he knew he was a ‘Straight White Man’ and that his show didn’t have anything Important in it, and then recommended shows which he felt were important and diverse and passed the Bechdel Test. Ace ace ace]