Friday, August 20, 2010

FRINGE: Evan O'Television in Double Negatives

If you've watched Louie on FX, then you've seen the pinnacle of the comedy-as-therapy genre, in which laughter--especially at metacomedic tricks--serves as a sort of exorcism of whatever ails you. In the opening act of Evan O'Television in Double Negatives, "Seamus" makes it clear that that's what he and his brother (both are played by Evan O'Sullivan) are about, and his following monologue comes across as a free-associative rant against his literally incomprehensible mother. ("9/11 Truth orgy? Please tell me you mean .org.") The main act makes this even clearer: Evan spends the next fifty minutes talking to a pre-recorded version of himself. (He calls this "conceptual comedy," joking that if they called it performance art, nobody would come.) When they're in sync--or deliberately out of it, as with one gag--the performance is delightful: it's self-self-deprecating humor. (Consider one skit in which the televised Evan plays a therapist who is attempting to treat the live Evan's psychotic habit of "talking to himself.") Entertaining as this "renowned one-man duo" is at first (O'Sullivan's mirthful similarity to Modern Family's Eric Stonestreet doesn't hurt), the gimmick exhausts itself after a half-hour. It doesn't help that "both" actors are the straight man and that the live Evan often has to mumble extra text to stay on cue--the show needs some fine tuning (pardon the pun). Still, it's an original thought, a brave performance, and a moderately funny show--it's certainly worth checking out. On a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being "Canned laughter" and 5 being "Syndication, here we come," Double Negatives gets a 3.

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