A Trip To The Future (With A Penguin!) – Review of Xavier Toby’s “When We Were Idiots”

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The other day I wrote about Australian comic Xavier Toby’s Fringe NYC show, Mining My Own Businessa stand-out, stand-up routine about his experiences working on a coal mine. Last night I had the pleasure of attending Toby’s other Fringe show; the walking tour, When We Were Idiots.

When I’d asked him about the show before, he told me “I lead people around downtown and yell at people through a megaphone”; I went in expecting some dumb comedy, possibly a few insults, and figured “when we were idiots” would refer to the time spent on the tour. I was in for a pleasant surprise.

The tour takes place in 2114, 100 years in the future. Our host, a penguin descendent of Toby’s, has graciously hired actors to move about downtown so that we can experience what life was like back in 2014. We were fortunate enough to come across vendors, tourists, drug addicts – all “actors”, of course – who all remained in character, almost as though they were just normal people.

While there was the promised yelling at strangers on the street, none of it was inappropriate. In fact, the entire group of us, decked out in high-visibility vests, were often called upon to applaud the every day actions of the New Yorkers we encountered.

The surprising part of the tour was the references to real-world issues, like our deteriorating environment and the concept of money. You wouldn’t expect it from a penguin with a megaphone, but Toby brought up some interesting and intellectual points. All of these were done in a very nonchalant way; references to “tree prisons” and the fact that he, as a penguin, was stuck in NYC because Antarctica had all melted. Turns out 2014 was when we were all “idiots”. Despite his serious points, these statements were surrounded by jokes and odd little historical facts (like the origin of the word “hooker”) so that the entire show still felt like a comedy; it didn’t get preachy.

It’s not that bad a walk, so don’t let the format of the show discourage you from going. It’s highly interactive and thanks to the frequent applause and questions for the audience, you will find yourself leaving with a smile on your face. It’s a nice way to end the day.

If you want to check out When We Were Idiots you have 3 more chances! You can meet Toby in the Fringe Central lot (114 Norfolk St., between Rivington & Delancey) Friday August 22 at 2:30pm or 7:30pm or Saturday August 23 at 7:30pm. Tell your friends!

-E.

 

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