Alun Cochrane: Comedy With Sad Bits

Note: This review is from 2005

Review by Steve Bennett

With a title like this, and an explanation that sitcoms and stand-ups always work best when they incorporate moments of sadness, Alun Cochrane makes promises of pathos that his incurably chipper demeanour can never deliver.

This good-natured Yorkshireman always sees the funny side – an asset surprisingly sparse among comedians – which means he’s able to find humour in everything from buying a single cinema ticket to cooking an omelette.

His show is therefore very anecdotal, as he regales a rapt, relaxed audience with tales from his travels. The fears he expresses that the show may venture into mawkish territory seem utterly unfounded, given his effortlessly easygoing nature.

The ‘sad bit’ around which he builds the show is the death of his father when he was just four.  But this is not mined for sympathy or exploited to add a weighty angle to what’s essentially an upbeat show.

Just the reverse, in fact. It’s brought up, almost casually, so he can criticise Dave Pelzer and other authors who feed the market for voyeuristic misery with their self-pitying memoirs. Indeed, he takes pains to point out that his childhood was not dominated by this one, tragic event, which he sees as a tribute to his mother’s parenting skills.

It’s a serious topic,  obviously, but only accounts for a couple of minutes out of the 60, and very lightly handled. For the rest of the time, Cochrane remains his normal, flippant self.

He is a mesmerising storyteller, able to hold an audience’s attention no matter how trivial the subject matter. Who else could muse on the difference between ‘hmmmm’ and ‘hhmmm’ as a way of appreciating foodstuffs? Occassionally he pushes the inconsequential nature of his subject matter a bit too far, knowing he has the charisma to get away with it, but he soon returns.

So at ease do people feel in his gregarious company that, on this night, one man felt free to shout scrambled egg recipe ideas at the stage, so convinced was he this was a genuine conversation, not a scripted comedy show.

Its subtle skeleton is given away by a plethora of neat callbacks, but this is not a show that relies on a rigorous structure, but rather a most entertaining hour in Cochrane’s very good company, guaranteed to cheer you up.

Review date: 1 Jan 2005
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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