The Ten Commandments is not known for its comedic potential. All that coveting, adultering, killing, cursing and general sinning seems very old fashioned. In the hands of Michael Chamberlin, though, there is plenty of fun to be had. Chamberlin has decided that that old list of Ten needs a bit of modernizing, and he’s the man for the job.
The Ten Commandments is merely a frame on which Chamberlin can hang his reams of quality material. He’s not afraid of moving quickly off topic, with only the most modest of fig-leafs to cover his embarrassingly small, er, segue. Some of his best material is absurdist stuff that links only tangentially to his theme: material on Angelina Jolie went down well, as did his bizarre rock-star dream.
Chamberlin is at his best when he goes full throttle in the telling of a story. As his jugular emerges from his designer t-shirt, the beads of sweat slowly begin appearing on his forehead and Chamberlin is bursting with energy. He has a tremendous ability to take the audience with him, both with the narrative of his story and its emotional pitch. This is demonstrated superbly in the last ten minutes of the show, when he plays the part of Jesus in a lecture to the disciples. It’s classic stuff, and Jesus has never been funnier.
In an era or heightened religious sensitivities, it’s a gutsy move to take on the subject head on. Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt has already attacked Chamberlin’s show as Christian-baiting, but it’s nothing of the sort. Chamberlin has a Catholic upbringing, and shares stories of his religion with affection. Far from condemning organized religion, he is seeking to make it relevant in the modern world. His gentle satire on Jesus and God would be appreciated all the more by the devout, and certainly compared to the other subjects that are given a grilling in the festival this is hardly worth getting hot and bothered over. At least this now gives Chamberlin an excuse to get stuck into Bolt, and get stuck in he does. Amen!