Eddie Ifft’s show Excess Baggage is designed to hit sore points. “I’d prefer a one star review to two, three, or four stars,” he said at the end. “That’s how you know you got to somebody.”
Perhaps it’s unfortunate for Eddie, then, that I actually really liked a lot of his show. Ifft’s jokes are dark, but they come from a more genuine place than he lets on. He doesn’t want to seem vulnerable – he hasn’t gone ‘soft’, declares his description in the Fringe Guide – but he still opens up about claustrophobia, the stress of raising a child, and the fear that his wife will murder him. And fair enough – enclosed spaces aren’t fun, babies are bizarre, and marriage is a pretty weird thing, when it comes down to it.
But I find that, as a general rule of comedy, even dark jokes are best when they ‘punch up’ rather than ‘punch down’. A joke’s punchline (usually) shouldn’t be that someone powerless is powerless. And there were a couple of jokes that I really didn't like – not because they were too ‘dark’ or ‘edgy’ or ‘offensive’, but because I didn't think the ends justified the means. On some level, these jokes didn't justify, for example, laughing at the plight of Filipino sex workers.
Eddie Ifft has the capacity to be a truly exemplary shock comedian but, sometimes, his jokes didn’t carry their premises. No doubt funnier jokes could have been made, for example, about keeping a homeless person as a pet. (It’s a wonderfully twisted idea to launch a joke from.) But if you’re going to handle that material, you’d better make damn sure it's funny. And a couple of times, it just wasn’t.
All in all, I had a solid night out. Maybe I’d go back again. But also, maybe he’s just not for me. And that’s fine.
★★★ (or, if you'd prefer, ★)