Andrew O'Neill – Original Review | Review by Steve Bennett

Andrew O'Neill – Original Review

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

Andrew O’Neill has gone through a number of evolutionary reinventions since his stand-up debut in 2002. They’ve not always been successful, but they helped him shape what is becoming increasingly distinctive, imaginative act.

At his best, he channels his childish silliness into sharp jokes, which he has a tendency to sing to daft jingles, giving an extra dollop of amusing nonsense to the whole pantomime. They may be puns at heart, but they’re very good ones, delivered with style.

Although his set occasionally lapses into the easy surrealism of stringing a few non-sequiteurs together, it is the inspired absurdism that shines through, as he tries to find new approaches and new topics. In the increasing packaged world of comedy, O’Neill deserves credit for trying to recapture that alternative spirit that once defined the circuit.

Sometimes he tries too hard, being self-consciously weird, or milking an idea beyond its humour; but his strike rate is pretty good; which is all the more impressive as he tries to avoid the obvious route to any gag. Even when he talks about a common topic, such as the street slang of youth, he’s careful not to just casually mock it, but celebrate the evolution of language.

His alternative credentials include being an anarchist metal fan and avowed transvestite – though glamorous frocks are never going to be his thing, given his musical tastes. It is, he says, a statement against the misogynistic laddish values of the likes of Nuts magazine… though it does seem to be a very extreme reaction to not liking football.

In his set, too, he tends to take good ideas and push them a bit too far. His idea for the antidote for Esther Rantzen’s saccharine TV show Hearts Of Gold, for example, is initially brilliant, though it loses impact when he talks us through it in minute detail. Conversely, he’s got plenty of material that starts rather too whimsically, but that he can tie up with a great payoff.

But he’s a prolific act, with a set that gets progressively sharper year-on-year as the loose edges are tied up and more brilliant, genuinely unexpected lines are added to the mix. At this rate, it won’t be long till he’s huge… or at the very least a significant cult figure.

Review date: 22 Oct 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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