David Longley

David Longley

David Longley: Everything I Hate About My Club Set

Review by Steve Bennett

This town is full of hundreds, if not thousands, of eager hopefuls, daring to hope that one day they might be able to achieve that near-impossible dream of earning a living as a full-time professional comedian.

Well, David Longley has been in that fortunate position for quite some time, a regular at all the nation’s big comedy clubs. And he absolutely hates it.

You know those dead-behind-the-eyes comedians soullessly ploughing through the same inane material and Pavlovian crowd-pleasing tricks just for the paycheck. He likes that he only has to work two nights a week to cover the bills, and the rest of the time is his, never mind that he has contempt both for his audiences, and for himself for pandering to their most base instincts.

This is the entire foundation for What I Hate About My Club Set, a self-pitying whine about his job that sporadically amuses with its exposés of the tired tropes of the trade, although it’s nothing a devoted comedy geek won’t already know.

And there’s some interest, too, in the compromises he’s had to make to navigate his material past the twin perils that are narrowing comedy’s scope. One one side, the risk of raising the cudgels of the eager-to-be-offended, on the other accidentally becoming a cheerleader for the boorish too dim, distracted or drunk to appreciate the irony.

Longley’s show starts with a Foster’s Comedy Robo Hack deploying all the ‘give us a cheer…’ compering tricks, repetitively and with no emotion. It’s a neat in-joke, but one that’s to be repeated in different variants for the duration of the hour.

For he dons a spangly jacket to run through his club set, though not selling it nearly as hard as he would to a Friday night Jongleurs crowd. There’s a bit about getting into a fight to defend a fat chick that’s hardly politically correct, but nothing as to the routine about his stuttering son repeating the first syllable of the Pachycephalosaurus dinosaur in the presence of Longley’s Indian friend. Are people laughing just to hear the word ‘Paki’? Probably. Nevertheless, it’s a routine about how he, a straight man, might be tempted to suck a cock that lands him in deepest trouble, even if the charge of homophobia is clearly misplaced.

All this is discussed when he takes off the jacket, to become the real him, explaining the origins of the jokes and the bits he’s had to cut to get it past the drunk crowds at all, watering down any initial, liberal intent as to be almost imperceptible. The dissection has some interest for the comedy devotee, and he’s right he is about the way such venues have become anathema to real comedy, but it isn’t particularly funny.

He has a particularly visceral, physical way of illustrating the insipid rubbish TV stand-up audiences are fed, which has quarters of the room turning away in disgust. Now it’s perfectly acceptable to repulse your audience to make a point, Kim Noble-style, but in this context seems entirely gratuitous. Presumably this was meant to be the talked-about moment, but it’s as cheap as it is nasty.

And besides, there’s a problem with his arguments, for much as he might hate his lot, he’s still in a privileged position – and he holds the power to try to change things, if he wants to. Though it probably means working more than two nights a week.

I couldn’t help thinking of the likes of Andrew Maxwell or Adam Bloom, who could play any room in the country and make their points without compromise. And there’s a thriving scene of comedians doing solo tours of arts centres with material that would never work in weekend clubs, almost all of which start at the Fringe. Longley summarily dismisses this route, thinking that it’ll never work for him since he won’t do the schmoozing he thinks necessary to get on. But the industry will, eventually, pick up on good shows no matter what your networking skills – and the bottom line is that this venting of professional frustrations does not make for a good show.

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Published: 15 Aug 2016

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