Daniel Kitson

Note: This review is from 2004

Review by Steve Bennett

In a city full of comedians desperate to be loved, Daniel Kitson takes a contrary approach.

In general, he doesn't like people, so their acclaim is meaningless to him. Thus he puts barriers in the way of his audience, trials of dedication that, in his thinking, validate the opinions of those who overcome them.

Even then, that might not be enough. At one point, he tells us off for applauding a joke. "It's a bit too considered," he arrogantly opines ­ telling us only to laugh in appreciation and save the claps for the end. We obey.

He's less strict about applying rules to himself "because I'm a badass". Pointing out the notes he brings on stage, he concedes that all the other comics learn their sets "because they've a modicum of respect for the paying public".

Reviewing Kitson is almost redundant, as he deconstructs his own gags as he goes along. "It's fairly lazy thematically," he says of one joke, "but it's the word reticent that gets a laugh." Elsewhere he berates us for the Pavlovian laugh he gets from a rhythmic climax, making sure we know that he's the comedy puppetmaster and the audience mere marionettes.

The irony is that while he hates people, they love him, at least for his work. They love his eloquence and his honesty, both of which are on display here. Basically, he's a philosopher-comic with a large vocabulary.

He thinks a lot about everything: thinking himself out of a more successful career and thinking himself out of having fun. And it's this second aspect that forms the theme to his show.

This is a treatise on the nature of love, told through the analogy of dancing. Kitson finds himself too reserved to dance, too afraid of making a fool of himself to abandon his inhibitions. And a few embarrassing childhood incidents only made him more determined never to take to the dancefloor.

These are classic Kitson themes of romance and loneliness in a world he doesn't understand, and which often doesn't understand him. It's touching, frank and very funny.

But there is another side to Kitson's comedy. He's also the baron of banter, the prince of the putdown, always finding rich seams of comedy in the events of the moment.

So when one heckler calls him a liar, or another man politely but pointedly walks out of the show, it opens the floodgates for long diversions. The couple who start snogging are the final straw.

Hilarious though this might be, it does ruin the flow and the poignancy of his touching central story; a thing of delight hijacked by a couple of wittering attention-seekers who somehow breached Kitson's fortress of inaccessibility.

In another show of petty defiance to The Man, this show runs for 90 minutes to accommodate all these shenanigans. He's not hosting Late N Live this year, so maybe he misses the cut and thrust of audience interaction, but the truth is that as a show it would probably be best left as a tender, personal hour without the interruptions.

Review date: 1 Jan 2004
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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