Thursday, 19 June 2008
Jason Rouse, Gary Delaney, Vince Fluke, Rab Brown, compere Lucy Porter - The Stand, Edinburgh, 05/06/2008
Some comedy nights are a little strange. On this particular night, I found myself seeing a bill of comedians none of whom I was at all familiar with or knew what to expect from, aside from the main draw, being the MC, Lucy Porter, one of my favourite comics whose last four Edinburgh shows I have attended and very much enjoyed but who I had never seen plying her trade as a club comedian before.
In fact she makes a perfect host, her big personality which belies her somewhat diminutive stature filling the room and setting up the room perfectly for laughs. It’s a shame then, that few of the acts were able to take advantage of this, but this takes nothing away from Porter who, during the course of the evening, may even have created the beginnings of a beautiful transatlantic romance between a gruff voiced bearded American and a young girl out celebrating her birthday in the front row.
For the opening act, Vince Fluke, I have to be fair and point out that I later learned that he had only been brought in as a very last minute replacement. Sadly, it showed. A personable Canadian, he never seemed to get to grips with the audience, and from the very beginning of his set seemed to be floundering and constantly changing tack trying to find something to hook the attention with. But the result made his set jumpy and disjointed and make very little sense. Further, he seemed to spend an inordinate amount of his time informing people that he was going to be working at the T in the Park festival, without saying anything particularly funny about it, as if it was going to cause a ripple of recognition, something that was never going to happen in front of a crowd most of whom were either too old or too English to know what it was.
Glaswegian Rab Brown came next, and as the “newcomer” act of the evening, was the one performer who really shone. Taking his chance well, he performed a set of not necessarily very original material, but his take on hen parties, homosexual flirting and his own lack of attractiveness was at least different enough to be memorable, and fulfilled the main objective of being really very funny.
Next up was Gary Delaney, something of an old fashioned gagsmith whose set consisted almost entirely of a series of one-liners and puns. An accomplished writer as well as a comedian, whose jokes can often be heard coming out of the mouths of established TV acts, including Basil Brush, Delaney has a number of excellent gags which soon have the audience on his side. But twenty minutes is a long time to be firing out one pun after another, and to be honest the set could have done with more variety. By about half way through the whole thing felt a bit overloaded, and the audience were becoming noticeably quieter. However, an excellent final few minutes won them back over in the end.
And then came Jason Rouse, another Canadian act, and it’s difficult to know what to say here. Leather clad, tattoo covered and dripping with metal accoutrements from countless piercings and the lining of his teeth, Rouse is a comedian whose main objective is to offend. He sets about this from the word go, reading the mood and the demeanour of the audience and almost resolutely setting himself up in opposition to it. There is little by way of actual humour in his act, rather it consists of a series of statements each designed to push the audience to the limits of their tolerance.
This, in itself, is not a bad thing. There are a number of acts who rely on the same concept, and some of them pull it off very expertly indeed. Rouse, sadly, does not appear to be one of them. There is nothing wrong with being offensive, and it is good when comedy can challenge, but it seems to me that this kind of material should either be leading towards a point, or if not then should at least be very very funny. Rouse’s material was neither. And so relentless was he in piling one sick and twisted image onto another and another, that within not too many minutes, it had even lost the power to shock, simply becoming mundane and, difficult though it is to see how this is possible with subject matter including rape, incest, paedophilia and taking sexual advantage of the mentally impaired, quite frankly boring.