Daniel Kitson: Lover, Thinker, Artist and Prophet

Note: This review is from 2004

Review by Steve Bennett

Daniel Kitson's avowed aim is to lose popularity. As a dedicated misanthrope, he doesn't want the sort of scum he despises for a fan base, preferring instead to appeal to an elite of like-minded misfits who, he dreams, might elevate him to messianic status.

Sad to report, he's going the completely wrong way about it. Instead, by insisting on delivering a brilliantly funny series of from-the-heart autobiographical anecdotes revealing genuine social insights, he's only going to attract more and more converts.

Sure, he's tried to alienate people, most successfully with that sweet-but-simple storytelling at the Edinburgh Fringe that disappointed many. But here, he's back doing what he does best: stand-up and swearing.

Having said that, for this new round of tour dates, he's virtually ditched the one single thing he does better than anyone else. In almost three and half hours, Kitson doesn't once savage the audience. Even the self-important tosser who spoils the mood by announcing to the entire auditorium his intention to urinate gets away with merely a mild ribbing. Aside from that, the reluctant Perrier-winner's rapier putdown skills stay safely sheathed. It's understood that we're here to listen, and he's here to talk; the way things should be.

Anyone who's seen Kitson's solo shows before will know exactly what to expect from Britain's foremost professional swearer. Though an uppity, awkward, odd-looking outsider, he becomes the hero of his own tales - and all the more heroic for acknowledging his many flaws and weaknesses.

Essentially, he's a reactionary old grouch outside his time, complaining how Britain's gone to the dogs, our town centres rendered no-go zones on Friday nights by drinking, pissing, vomiting louts and their drinking, pissing, vomiting, slaggy women. It's hard not to agree.

On a par are obstinate taxi drivers and parasitic journalists, both groups of which get particularly stern lashes of the comic's hateful tongue. But the ire's not driven by a harsh cynicism, but by a romantic notion of the way the world should be if only bastards like these weren't ruining it.

He can be optimistic, but finds he's quickly crushed___n one brilliant but brief moan, he tells of how the fun of staying in hotel rooms soon fades into despondent thoughts of being the thousandth lonely figure to occupy these soulless spaces. It's summed up with a brilliant joke, lyrical in its use of words, packed with emotional power - and with a wanking reference. It's distilled Kitson at his best.

The structure of this show's unusual, in that he starts by performing a slightly shambolic 45-minute routine ranting about these concerns and anything else that seems to leap - or rather, meander - to mind. It's not tight, but does keep the laughs going, even if they are sometimes down to Kitson's acknowledgements that the funnies aren't quite as strong as he thought.

Then we have the support act, a brilliantly accomplished singer-songwriter by the name of Gavin Osbourne, whose touchingly quirky lyrics provide an ideal accompaniment to the comedy - maybe Kitson needn't have been so defiantly apologetic when introducing him.

The second half, though, is when things really soar, as we hear the three extended routines at the heart of the show; covering his inability to participate in interviews, his early days at university, and a road rage incident that suddenly altered the male dynamics of his family.

He has the storyteller's gift of combining personal stories and opinionated views with universal truths and feelings. The anecdotes come quick and, seemingly, effortlessly so the audience remains in thrall to such a skilled raconteur. He'd probably hate to be told so, but there's a touch of the Billy Connolly about that particular skill of keeping an audience hanging on every word.

Truth is, there's a sizeable, if minority, audience open to this literate, sensitive form of comedy that's more than Spangles, dope-smoking and puns, especially if it's done as well as this, with some creative swearing to sweeten the pill, of course.

Sorry, Daniel, but if you stay on this brilliant form, your congregation is only going to grow in size and dedication.

Steve Bennett
Leicester Comedy Festival
February 11, 2003

Review date: 1 Jan 2004
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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