Binge Fringe Magazine

REVIEW: Curried Mustard, Joe Bains, VAULT Festival ★☆☆☆☆

Curried Mustard by Joe Bains takes us on a comedic path through keto, divorce, tantric yoga and unfortunately, bigotry. What started as a tough show, for a tough crowd of five people, ended as something which left an awful taste in my mouth.

Let us start with the positives. Despite having a crowd of five, one of which was me a reviewer, Bains started the show with charisma and confidence. It was a promising beginning, crowd work is clearly a strength of Bains, he didn’t falter at our responses and managed to make light of everyone there. Honestly, I was impressed and ready to be amused. When Bains cracked a tasteful dick joke, I was ready for the rest of the set. Oh, what a fool I was.

As the show went on, it went downhill, I can truthfully say that I would have this opinion whether the crowd was full of five or fifty people. It was not an issue of the performance but more of the content. Yes, there were a few jokes that hit the mark and had a semblance of humour. However, for most of the show, I felt like I’d been cornered by a man at the party who is determined to make me swap out my toast for a block of cheese with butter on it because, well, keto.

Okay, whatever, people can be insane and cut out carbs, I’m not judging. But however, I do judge when someone calls Jordan Peterson, king of the incels, a great man with great (read fascist) ideas about Australia’s trans-inclusive self-identification law. I was shocked that this routine was allowed by VAULT, a festival celebrating humankind’s beautiful diversity. While Bains was never openly transphobic he teetered so close to the edge, and that was enough. He co-opted the classic anti-trans rhetoric of “Well if you identify as a Can, then I’ll call you a pussy.”

I understand I was attending a comedy show, and I am aware that perhaps Bains was cracking a joke about the type of person who supports an incel king, but honestly the joke didn’t land. Coupled with some other ‘out there’ opinions such as misogyny directed towards Indian women, I was beginning to understand what kind of show this was. 

Reader, at this point I thought back to the fact that the show is called Curried Mustard. And in retrospect, perhaps Bains went off his usual routine due to the small audience. But in this day and age of comedy, where performers are creating incredible shows with clear and deliberate stories all purposely placed, Bains was babbling.

Yes, he himself admitted this was his return to comedy after a long time, but there was no sense of story or any sense in Bains’ routine. You can’t just slap a name on the show, make some pick-me jokes about being brown in a white world, be transphobic and take a show to a festival.

There was no craftsmanship, no passion for the art, just a lecture on why you should eat ten eggs a day. Comedy has evolved past the era of saying a few offensive jokes and waiting for a laugh, and (now as they all do) crying about cancel culture when not even a soul coughs. Do better, evolve, stop bothering trans people. 

One last honourable mention to the guy next to me who asked for advice on what a Type 1 Diabetic should eat. You are the reason the show ran on. Enjoy your stupid diet.

Recommended Drink: Honestly, 16 pints of guinness. 

Performances of Curried Mustard have now concluded at the VAULT Festival. Do you disagree with my review? Keep up with Joe Bains here to see if you do.

Aditi Mohan

Our Race, Ethnicity & Culture Editor & London Editor. Obsessed with the Postcolonial world. Aditi likes to look at how theatre and comedy reflects today’s world of multiplicity. She’s keen to watch any kind of theatre or performance but comedy is her go to, because if you don’t laugh you’ll cry.

Festivals: Paris Fringe (2020), VAULT Festival (2023), Bloomsbury Festival (2023)
Pronouns: She/Her