“There are certain things I miss since becoming a veggie… like respect.”
With this humorous, yet risky statement the award winning comedian Dave Chawner decided to open his brand new show about turning vegan, immediately filling the dimmly lit basement of Exchange Bar, Leicester with his slightly fidgety, enthusiastic persona.
I must admit, I was sceptical about seeing this act. Even though it was not to be taken seriously due to the nature of such performances, we all know the battle of vegans and so-called ‘meat-eaters’ is well underway with provocative videos, speeches, hints and preachiness nobody asks for.
But this wasn’t a lecture on carbon footprints and other cowspiracies that I feared to experience. Dave, previously renowned for speaking with bittersweet humour about him battling anorexia, did not take advantage of his position to shoulder the role of a veg preacher man. Instead, he delivered a hilarious, light-hearted show on the origins of food, building communities through eating, nutrition and the UK diet industry. On top of making you laugh, it could make you think. But not forcedly.
Dave’s qualities as a comedian lay most of all in a very natural, unrehearsed way of delivery, as he applied exaggerated, ‘jumpy’ gesticulation and little spasms of giggles. Driving his voice to very high, squeaky tones made him extremely ‘human’ and naturally easy to follow – it was basically like talking to someone genuiely excited about life.
We don’t encounter such approach very often in our sombre, perpetually mortified society, so we’ve learned not to expect it. Especially when paired with taboo topics such as eating disorders, let alone ones the comedian has struggled with personally. It’s a refreshing and healthy attitude, obviously seen in comedy, but not in life in general – to be able to laugh at our weaknesses.
‘C’est La Vegan’, I assume purposely built on a ‘it’s just a trial run’ device, where Dave would walk up to his scattered notes and cross out jokes that did not quite make the cut amongst the audience, used comedy as a way to approach difficult topics in a non-judgemental space. Weaving in politics into debates on bananas was allowed, as was referring to an act on bulimia as ‘too gag-heavy’. Like veganism itself, Dave’s show seemed to be in a raw, shy and newborn stage, but his experience and confidence proved the audience it was all just a part of the brilliant act and mastered skills.
The unwritten law of ‘no holds barred’ on a comedian’s stage is what gave Dave the artistic freedom to explore issues that don’t want to be explored, but should be. And laugh about them a little.
Wrapping up his act by saying ‘I’m not pro vegan, I’m not anti vegan – I’m pro choice.’, he by choice turned away from cheesy (see what I did here?) puns and laughter, to try and have an effect, even if only a little ‘lightswitch’ moment, on the way we perceive the topic.
And though he was not deliberately trying to persuade anyone to join him on the veggie deck, his performance has forever assured me that it is in fact possible to derive energy from plants.
Extremely positive, inspiring energy.