Published Jan 02, 2019Toronto's James Hartnett is a gifted and sardonic comedic voice who trades in at least a few distinct personas within the meat-and-bone frame that is "James Hartnett." He is a selfish, smarmy landlord on the excellent Landord and Tenant Podmess with Michael Balazo; he's a dark absurdist on twitter; and now, with the excellent Get Bent!, he is a ranting standup who specializes in a kind of misdirection-fuelled form of "confessional" comedy.
Within his writing, it's clear that Hartnett is a truly intelligent artist. Very few people would turn a routine crowdwork bit, asking anyone in the audience if they're visiting from out of town, into a sad, pained search for someone. At one point, he tells a chilling story about advice he once received from his young son, only to later suggest he's single and has no kids. There's a brilliant bit about how athletes often praise a Christian God, and yet very few ever salute a certain southern lord, and later, Hartnett unfurls an uproarious reel of ludicrous sex analogies.
Hartnett peppers his set with various accents and, in the spirit of his performance, often lies to us. He sets us up to think one thing and support him before pulling the carpet out from under us and revealing some other, more reprehensible self. And because it's all couched in a kind of failed trust realm, it's impossible not to get sucked into this hilarious void. James Hartnett has accomplished that rare standup feat on Get Bent! where he lays all of his cards of unlikability down on the table and leaves the game with smitten fans. (Independent)