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Book Review: The Uncollected Plays of Shaun Micallef

Shaun's expression is one of
'are you really sure you want to read this?'
Shaun Micallef is one of Australia's premier comedian, actor, writer, and media personalities responsible for numerous comedy TV shows, and generally leaning towards surrealist humor that often gives him a more unique perspective on finding what's funny in any given situation.

He's actually one of my favorite humorists working in entertainment, hence I was looking forward to reading his book, The Uncollected Plays of Shaun Micallef.

You would think a man who writes a lot of contemporary, biting satire would be a sure thing, laugh a minute writer of short plays but unfortunately, this book was disappointing. I found it extremely challenging to read, and was constantly looking to see how many pages were left to endure of the various plays as I read them.

Part of the problem is the majority of the plays are based on historical themes that were not only before my time, but also before Shaun's time. We're talking bible stories, World Wars, and even a reimagining of The John Merrick story. The whole book is like reading the work of someone who hasn't updated their pop culture references in decades (or even centuries).

I feel a lot of the references just went over my head too because only highly educated people care about classic tales by historical authors like God (I'm pretty sure God probably had one or two ghost writers pen his/her/their book).

It's almost like he's channelling the themes that his influences, The Goons, Monty Python, Spike Milligan, Woody Allen, Barry Humphries etc. have all been known to write about, and not even getting close to their brilliance in making these subjects funny.

Perhaps the various plays really need to be performed in order to see the humor, but I found very little to even raise a smile. I could see the jokes coming, and the fourth wall interactions with the audience, used by different characters in several of the plays, started to wear thin.

It was all a bit strange because a lot of the jokes are exactly my style of humor and the reason I like Shaun's work. The real problem, I think, is I just didn't connect with any of the characters given how far removed most are from contemporary society.

In between the plays there are short chapters of 'advice' for playwrights which were actual highlights for me, as were the introductions to each play. I'm assuming the various anecdotes are real (but probably embellished) stories of how the plays came to be. Still not a lot of laughs here though either.

In the end, I think I would rather have been reading a Shaun Micallef autobiography than this collection of plays.

Definitely a book to read from a library. You'll only want to own it if you're a Shaun Micallef completionist. It feels like this book only exists because there's little chance of any of these plays being performed more than a handful of times if they're lucky.

If you must have it, purchase the book from Amazon using the link below.
The Uncollected Plays of Shaun Micallef


* This article contains Amazon Associate commission links that help keep this site free.

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