Published Sep 21, 2019Is the purpose of comedy to "push boundaries" or "speak truth to power"? At the Garrison on Friday night, Sam Morril made a strong case that the purpose of comedy is simply to tell jokes.
Rarely straying from a conventional setup / punch line structure, Morril told jokes, one after another, with the indefatigable resolve of a pitching machine in a batting cage. He didn't try to sell these jokes with committed act-outs, silly voices or righteous meta-commentary, he simply let his writing speak for itself, delivering compact bits that could conceivably work on paper just as well as they do on stage.
Initially, this felt like a refreshing change of pace — Morril hit the stage and launched directly into his material, expeditiously covering a shocking amount of ground by segueing seamlessly from one topic to another. Yet, around the halfway point of the show, this rapid-fire approach started to wear on the audience, culminating in responses that felt disproportionately tepid to the strength of the material.
Disparate pockets of the audience were still responding positively to each joke, but many audience members seemed to let their attention stray, correctly perceiving that they could simply tune back in 30 seconds later and catch the start of a fresh one. "Are you getting all these?!" Morrill asked aloud at one point, attempting to unify the audience into a collective unit once again.
With the instincts of a seasoned performer, Morril used this as an opportunity to pivot towards personal anecdotes, winning the audience back by grounding the latter portion of his set in a thematic throughline the earlier part was sorely missing. In these moments, I couldn't help but wonder whether his act could stand to incorporate more of this approach.
As presently constructed, Morril's act feels like an extended late-night set: lean, well-rehearsed, and dense with jokes. Watching it for an hour, though, it doesn't take long for you to realize that there's a reason most late-night sets rarely exceed five minutes.