By BRUCE DENNILL
Nik Rabinowitz comedy shows involve a lot. A lot of intelligence. A lot of lateral thinking, much of it marinaded in sarcasm. A lot of research into strange and possibly wonderful topics. A lot of words – the man speaks non-stop, except to grin at the audience occasionally, for 80 minutes. And a lot of laughs, the product of the combination of all of the above.
Unmuted, even by Rabinowitz’s standards, is a great amalgamation of amusement, unhinged but exquisitely controlled. He manages to reflect on the pandemic and the changes we needed to make to our collective lifestyles without ever passing through cliché, which is an impressive feat, as anyone who has watched, listened to or read any of the myriad Covid-referencing projects that have already come out will know.
That aspect of the piece is comforting and peculiarly encouraging. Rabinowitz deals with issues that were recently all-consuming in a way that makes them feel both as though they are (mostly) consigned to the past and, in some ways, had positive outcomes.
But it’s not a themed show, constrained by one topic. There is a bit about a crime that involves wonderful EQ, some gags about horse drugs, an examination of the practice of dogging and a great deal of cheerful mocking of Rabinowitz’s home town (Cape Town) and his Jewish heritage.
Rabinowitz offers casual slickness in his performance style – apparently effortlessly keeping his banter flowing and linking ongoing narratives with one-liners. That the show has a director, Brent Palmer, confirms that such smooth effectiveness is the result of careful planning and hard work, but it is Rabinowitz’s confident, affable engagement with his audience that ultimately helps the writing and the improvised asides to land.
Unmuted is a masterful show – in terms of material, performance, tone and the number and range of laughs induced – from one of our finest comedians.