A tiny makeshift room, sectioned off by curtains and tucked away on the first floor of the Carlton Club, sets a cosy scene for Sam Garlepp’s Never Have I Ever. He greets all the early arrivals personally, and reassures us that there will be more people coming. Sure enough, a raucous crowd packs in and Garlepp makes his grand entrance, dancing in to his own voiceover intro.
He lets us know immediately what we’re in for – a little bit of musical comedy (he plays guitar!), a little bit of self-deprecation, and a whole lot of TMI. He takes no time at all to reveal himself to us, from former fat kid struggles to sexual fantasies about Harry Potter characters. Although his first song could probably have been delivered just as successfully as a monologue, his Johnny-Hobo-and-the-Freight-Trains-style singing lends a sense of emotional urgency that keeps his account of ridiculously personal experiences from sounding, well, ridiculous. The real magic of Garlepp is that, by exposing himself so earnestly, he turns the crowded room of strangers into an intimate gathering of friends.
Many of the topics of Never Have I Ever are well-trodden ground, but Garlepp weaves interesting new paths through almost all of them, save for that of dick pics, which is such an easy target that it seems a waste of Garlepp’s wit. His bit on Malaysia Airlines had the same effect – clever, but a little bit outdated and not as fresh as his raw, personal content. On the other hand, his lyrical adaptations of popular songs, including Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’ and NWA’s ‘Straight Outta Compton’ are so innovative and self-aware that they avoid being gimmicky.
On this particular Friday night the audience was loud, lively, and pretty well liquored up. A comedy in its own right played out in the front row, and ran the risk of upstaging Garlepp. Instead of battling it for the spotlight, he took up the players and turned them, as well as all the rest of us, into co-conspirators in his routine. This really is a show worth seeing, especially with a drink in your hand.
Daisy Elizabeth Feller
Sam Garlepp’s Never Have I Ever runs from the 9th – 21st of April at the Carlton Club, as part of the 2018 Melbourne International Comedy Festival.