It’s a little known fact that Joseph Campbell’s seminal work The Hero with a Thousand Faces is the pre-eminent manual for how to succeed at stand-up comedy. It pretty much lays out the road map for those brave enough to accept the call, survive the ordeal, and seize the sword of fame and comedic glory. Of course, a Hollywood arsehole called George Lucas completely misappropriated this potent tome to create some nonsense about space knights and indestructible space stations that were destroyed with Sisyphean regularity.
Okay, it’s entirely possible that the above statement is, ahem, not strictly speaking correct. But commentating as a screenwriter who has sat through many a workshop (and indeed read Christopher Vogler’s The Hero’s Journey based on Campbell’s work), the fact that Jeff Hewitt overtly uses this storytelling model is as surprising as it is amusing.
And when I mean overt I mean as in a presentation slide on screen stepping us through a truncated 9 step model! It gives structure to what turns out to be a very funny and engaging tale of personal redemption. Which just happens to fit Campbell’s model perfectly as Hewitt is indeed the hero of his own story.
But to earn redemption one first has to plummet to the depths and this is what makes Rad Dad Redemption really interesting. Hewitt isn’t afraid to tell his story warts and all even daring us not to like him. The show opens with a video montage of him circa 2011 when he was an irresponsible party animal and deeply dissatisfied lawyer. Once onstage he quickly apprises us of the reasons for his behaviour and angst mapped to Campbell’s steps. Drugs, infidelity, soulless boss, remorseless banks, and the tragic end to a neighbour are just some of the causes.
Hewitt’s delivery is brutal, often times crass but ultimately funny because there is a truthfulness here that is compelling. And despite his attempts to play the villain he does come across as very likeable in the intimate venue. This is aided by a casual interaction with the audience that is spontaneous and warm even when mock abuse is blurted out with glee.
Things change for Hewitt when he meets his ‘Goddess’ who will become the mother of his child which drives the redemption arc in the latter half of the show. Fatherhood certainly has changed Hewitt and his joy at this unexpected outcome is palpable. The show ends with a video montage circa 2015 that shows how far he has come from his anus horribilis. The final moments demonstrate to us all that you have to learn to crawl before you can walk and it is a touching endpoint to an authentic and funny tale.
And not even one Death Star was blown up along the way!
Jeff Hewitt: Rad Dad Redemption, directed by Levon Polinelli, is on at the Noodle Palace in the Central Institute of Technology in Northbridge until 30 January.