“Nobody defends the Third Reich like James McCann.”
That’s how Adelaide comedian James McCann sold his 2019 Fringe show, Devil’s Advocate, when he joined Loz & Thomo on Brekky prior to its run. How you respond to that statement will determine how you respond to the overall show. It’s a show for those who can leave their morals at the door; a show which is, by any reasonable measure, absolutely deplorable.
McCann sees the boundary at which “edgy” humour goes “too far,” and he barrels through it. Devil’s Advocate is a show which demands a similar sensibility from its audience. As you walk into the Rhino Room’s basement, you’re invited to anonymously write down the most abhorrent statement you can think of and leave it in a bucket. McCann is then presented with those statements while he’s live onstage, and must improvise a way to defend and justify it.
Islamic State. Gender dysmorphia. Female genital mutilation. The children Michael Jackson allegedly touched. Hitler’s sex appeal. Those are some of the topics thrown at James McCann on-stage, and he manages to find arguments in favour of each offensive position. Even more incredible is the fact that his arguments so often pursue a left-field angle which, in some bizarre, perverse way, kind of make sense.
To be in the audience of Devil’s Advocate demands that you go along with McCann for the ride. There’s an understanding that what gets said in Rhino Room on the night stays in Rhino Room. That’s to everyone’s benefit, including Fresh 92.7’s own Loz, who read each statement aloud to McCann; statements which, if captured on camera and viewed without context, would be extremely career-limiting.
It’s a testament to McCann’s comic abilities – and, possibly his concerning moral code – that he’s able to completely make up these arguments on the spot. At one point, he improvises a song about toxic masculinity on a tiny keyboard: after a couple of false starts, he manages to work in some legitimately impressive rhyming schemes. It’s those moments of pause which prove McCann is completely coming up with this stuff on the fly, and it makes it all the more thrilling when he eventually gets there.
Devil’s Advocate is not a show for those who take their political beliefs too seriously, regardless of which side you’re on. You will be offended. One audience member found that out the hard way when she audibly baulked at his line of argument surrounding menstruation. The show is offensive, disgusting, and beyond the standards of human decency. If you can get behind that, you’re in for a treat.
At one point in the show, James McCann is confronted with the statement “Devil’s Advocate should get zero stars.” He completely agreed, and lamented that he’s always wanted to be given a one-star review so he can print it on his posters. Frankly, that seems like a perfectly reasonable way to evaluate this show, so:
Due to popular demand, James McCann is throwing one last Devil’s Advocate show on Sunday March 11 at Rhino Room. Tickets here.