Harley Breen’s ‘Smell the Penguins’ is a stand up show about love… and drug use and parenting and how not to heal broken bones.
I’ve previously seen Harley working on set of Adam Hills’ past ABC show, warming up the crowd and making me laugh more raucously than I’ve ever wanted to in a TV audience.
Breen has definitely changed in that time. He claims his new show is all about the different kinds of love, but it seems to be a very thin sandwich with some mushy love feelings at either end and a lot of quite graphic stuff in between. Breen has great delivery, firing jokes and punchlines off so quickly sometimes you laugh before you’ve fully absorbed the jokes content – but there was quite a lot of venting about his ex-wife that made me feel a bit like I was sitting in on a really sarcastic therapy session with someone who was a little obsessed with dick jokes.
When he hit the topic of fatherhood, however, Harley hit his stride. The horror of a small child potentially learning how to google his father’s name only to find a YouTube video filled with content about said child… that kid’s gonna need some therapy of his own one day. Also the silent battle of trying to stop small children from absorbing swear words and your own bad habits – sometimes it’s easier to just fill the swear jar and just let fly.
There’s a good portion of the show that made me unsure whether I was entertained or horrified. Moral of the story is to listen to recommended dosages when it comes to recreational drugs, and that you’re not a badass for drinking your feelings and ignoring your pain in case maybe you’ve actually caused irreparable damage.
I have a bit of a rule about media that I don’t find much joy in people making kinda crappy decisions, so Harley Breen’s stories of slightly toxic stereotypical masculinity didn’t do much for me. Although when he told the story of a Thai masseuse backhanding his unwanted erection, I cried with laughter.
If you’re a fan of physical comedy and misled adventures, and hearing all the sordid details of a children’s entertainer’s offstage life, you’ll love ‘Smell the Penguins’.
– Jasmin Ashton