Carlsberg Cat Laughs 2010 [2]

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

This show marked an unfortunate first. In half a dozen years of coming to Kilkenny, I’ve never been to a show that wasn’t packed-to-the-rafters full. But this early Friday-night line-up attracted just a few dozen punters in a venue that could easily have accommodated five time more.

And what an unforgiving environment it was, too – a brutal concrete bunker with a couple of forlornly inappropriate mirrorballs to give the impression we are in Soviet-era Vladivostock’s only nightclub and acoustics so poor that every scraping chair or slamming toilet door echoed off every grey wall. Still, comedy has thrived under more unforgiving circumstances, so let’s see what happens…

Willie White’s compering was, unfortunately, as grim as the surroundings. He has a certain gift of the gab, but the material can be woeful. The by-the-numbers ‘where are you from?’/’That’s full of thieves/morons/inbreds’ is his fallback, while some of the gags are dubious indeed. The ancient line ‘I’ve got three kids – one of each,’ is followed by, ‘a boy, a girl and a hairdresser’ as everybody knows both that all hairdressers are gay; and poofters are simply hilarious. Throw in another routine that seeks laughs from a comedy Nigerian accent and you can chuckle like it’s 1976…

In the name of balance, some of his personal anecdotes of life in a tough quarter of Dublin are more amusing – and he’s got a damn fine singing voice – but too many of his routines are unlikeable for him to really impress.

Calm and collected Australian Carl Barron serves up a mixed offering, too; thought the highlights are delightful. With the assured poise of a man of great experience, he quietly shares his observations on the things we all do or say, even if they are quite ridiculous, illustrated by a careful physicality. He’s very much like Jimeoin in that respect, if not quite in the same league, but his recreation of creeping quietly around the house is a special delight.

That he can wring a lot of comedy out of the mundane is never better illustrated than his take on the old confusions about the word ‘thong’ on both sides of the planet; which although an easy, old target forms the basis of an elegantly constructed tower of double entendre.

Sketch group Idiots Of Ants suffered most from the limitations of the room, with several crucial lines lost to the poor acoustics, meaning these ‘greatest hits’ didn’t quite get the reception they usually do. The audience were slow to pick up on the pantomime irony of the hen night scene, playfully poking at male-female stereotypes, or buy into the scene where fathers-to-be are indoctrinated in the way of the awful ‘dad joke’ – but we got there in the end.

The group’s writing is taut and careful, with scenes slowly revealing the strong ideas at their comic heart, and the quartet are engaging performers – flexible enough to overplay the knowing wink through the fourth wall if it brings the crowd on board, as was needed tonight.

But closing act Jason Byrne was the only act to truly grasp this difficult gig by the horns, making no bones about the inadequacies of the room, with a brutally funny comparison which could have been offensive had it not been accompanied with his usual childlike sense of fun. Likewise, when he stumbled across a German girl in the audience, he was plunged into his own ‘don’t mention the war’ moment – unable to stop himself goose-stepping across the stage or raising his hand in Nazi salute.

Other audience members were teased with an equal sense of fun, in a typically spontaneous set, with much of the joy generated from the knowledge that this is a unique, shared experience. The mixed-bill nature of Cat Laughs means you are almost certain to see the same comedian more than once – but at least with Byrne you won’t see the same jokes.

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Published: 5 Jun 2010

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DVD (2009)
Carl Barron: Live

Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2010

Carl Barron


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