MICF – Reuben Kaye Apocalipstik

by | Apr 5, 2024

By Natalie Ristovski

One question danced through my mind this evening as I sat in the second row of the Malthouse Theatre, awaiting the arrival of anarch-artistic auteur and bane of Bible-bashers everywhere…

Is Reuben Kaye the Anti-Christ?

Some would certainly have us believe so – ever since Kaye’s perfectly played appearance on The Project not too many moons ago, he has become persona non grata amongst a specific ‘religious’ demographic of Australian.

And, as a result, has become a quasi-God to the rest of us.

Tonight, I looked up at the Stalin-esque propaganda banners bearing Kaye’s face flanking the tattered curtains of the Malthouse stage and blinked, wondering how we got here.

Come back with me for a moment, to almost a decade and a half earlier, during a very different Comedy Festival in a very different time – a time before Nazis on the steps of Parliament, before the word ‘woke’ was used as some schoolyard bully slur, when the only clutching of pearl necklaces openly going on was in the bathrooms at Poof Doof.

I sat then, as I did now, in a semi-darkened yet much smaller cabaret theatre. There were five people in the audience, including myself – it was a late-night after-hours show, the kind they put on once the bigger, more sanitised and politically sanctioned fare for the mainstream is done and the Boomers have gone home to bed.

That night, the young man who walked into the room was nowhere near as gloriously made up as he would one day become. He had on no make-up and wore a smart black suit with a white shirt, the kind you would find on a waiter in some fancy restaurant serving foie gras. He stopped before the five of us and smiled – a big smile that did not reach the mischievous glint in his eyes. As I looked at that smile, I remember thinking…those teeth could bite my face off.

Stay with me, this is relevant.

The young man grinned and met every one of us dead in the eyes before finally speaking.

“F**k,” he said, his grin widening as a few nervous titters escaped we transfixed few.

“Sh*t,” he continued after a moment, again with a smile. More laughter.

“Dead puppies don’t come when you call…” he went on.

This was my introduction to Reuben Kaye. This was also the night I learned the power of political incorrectness when wielded as a weapon.

As I sat enthralled by the gumption and gall of the man before me, revelling in both his wicked wit and the horrified heaving guffaws he drew from his captivated audience, a new world of artistic possibilities burst into life before my eyes. I saw just how, delivered with the right amount of sass and sugar, hard truths could be spoon fed to the eagerly swallowing masses.

Since that night, I have had the privilege of witnessing many a Reuben Kaye performance. With each new rebellious romp across the stage, I have seen his power and reach grow to match his phenomenal talent, extending further and deeper into the minds and hearts of those before him, clamping them in his shark-like grin.

But the kind of shark you call Daddy and want to be eaten by.

This evening, as the banner bearing Kaye’s face fell to reveal the man himself once again – albeit with much more face-paint, bigger lashes and Jesus Christ those beautiful TEETH! – I could absolutely understand why one might be inclined to believe him the bringer of the End of Days.

Apocalipstik indeed.

It’s not just Kaye’s razor-sharp wit and mile-a-minute delivery of politically positioned upper-cuts, his perfectly timed coquettish coyness or his penchant for getting up close and personal (consensually) with his adoring and equally aghast audience that makes this latest offering from the very loud lovechild of Liza Minelli and Mr. Ed a wonder to behold – but the sheer irreverent and infectious joy that Kaye is obviously experiencing as he feeds off us, his sacrificial lambs, and we throw ourselves wholeheartedly to the slaughter.

The show itself is a delicious digest of songs, personal anecdotes, good-old fashioned stagecraft, and a searing sermon on the state of our world (spoiler alert, we’re all screwed, and we know it). Perfectly poised on sparkly heels, bathed (sometimes) in a well-placed spotlight that is part of the fun, Kaye delivers each step of his calculatingly crafted minuet with the grace and poise of a giraffe on cocaine in a strip club – if that giraffe were really, really skilled and was possibly ushering in an apocalypse.

Some of the more nuanced jokes may fly over less politically minded attendees’ heads, but it won’t stop them from laughing along with the crowd…and that’s the beauty of Kaye’s artistic ataxia. His charm, his disarming nature, and the power of his narrative is so transfixing that he could literally be telling us all to rob banks, make independent porn or meet him in his hotel room after the show for a gangbang and most of us would leap like lemmings off that cliff.

We have all come to worship at the altar of Reuben Kaye, and we will lap up his glitter-infused anti-capitalist propaganda as if it were a cup of seminal fluid from the saviour Himself.

If we are all indeed going to Hell in a handbasket, I can think of no better guide across the river Styx than this.

In Reuben Kaye we trust.

But is he the Anti-Christ?

I sure hope so.

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