When he's good, he can very gut-achingly hilarious. When he's off, he's just tough to stomach. On balance, Greg Fleet's latest stand up effort Word Up is more of the latter than the former. Admittedly, the night I saw him might not be all that representative of what Fleet has to offer: at the start of the show he announced that he had recently split from his girlfriend. Recently, as in within the hour. If true, it's sad to hear, but if played for laughs, then it failed.
The premise of Fleet's show is solid: that language is an important part of our lives, yet we continually savage it with our various bastardized versions. Or as the promo material put it more succinctly "Greg Fleet's show takes us on a journey through all things languagey". Throughout Fleet has a series of flash cards that announce the various themes as we progress through the show. Some are straight forward, some are slightly strange, and some are downright bizarre. As it should be.
Some of the best work is the stuff that seems to have been snitched from his radio days, or at least heavily inspired by them. The GayAway infomercial is hilarious, as is his rap song and a cute little piece of theatre on the new sedition laws. A duet at the end with Kieran Butler - a promotional campaign to replace the Bloody Hell effort - is also a winner, although the intro to it is both overdone and factually incorrect, giving credit/blame for the Tourism Commission's effort to Qantas. It's interesting to note that the stuff that works best is the stuff outside the format.
These strong parts, though, are buffered by too many pedestrian moments. It's a telling sign that Fleet's hour show comes in close to 90 minutes after heading down a few too many comedic cul-de-sacs. He's a damn fine comic, but he needs to work out what he wants to say, and then get out there and say it.