I’m sat in a basement venue with my head pressed against the person (a stranger) next to me, asking them why their face is so soft. For clarity, I’m in Jack Barry’s charming Edinburgh Fringe show, re-enacting what the comedian and actor — who fans of Mae Martin’s Netflix show Feel Good will recognise — does to his cat. And we’re all doing it, on account of Jack’s words, turning to the person next to us like some group therapy session.
Its title, ‘Don’t Happy Be Worry’, is perhaps a slight misnomer for a show which, although tackles the existential angst that accompanies a quarter-life crisis, does so with the jaunty attitude of Jeremy from Peep Show. What do you do about when you’re not quite sure where you’re going in life? Drugs. What do you do about a receding hairline? Drugs. What do you do about a crippling loneliness and overall despair at the inability to truly communicate with your loved ones, as we float irredeemably on this spherical rock? Drugs — or get an aforementioned cat.
(Editor’s note: we do not condone drug-taking, no matter the state of your hairline).
That shouldn’t make him out to be some sort of slovenly, avocado-toast-munching hippie. In fact, Jack’s seems rather cultured, conversing in a couple of languages with people in the audience, albeit not for very long but the effort’s there. (Jack went the obvious route into comedy via a degree in Chinese, of course).
The sleight of hand with this show is how much he lets his audience in. At one point, be it a slip or genuine part of the act, Jack apologises to tell us he’s talking about his problems onstage following his therapist’s advice. At times, perhaps on account of feeling too vulnerable or the late-night showing in a sweaty basement, the composure is slightly lacking, with punchlines peppered out rather than commanded.
That’s just the one drawback from an otherwise admirable show, which elicits the pleasure of being young and doing immature things while you’re still able to – before you start pulling your loins to overcompensate from the difficulty of walking with sweaty feet.
Now, turn to the person next to you, put your face up to theirs and ask them why theirs is so soft. I promise, everything will be fine – don’t worry, be happy.