Al Stick – Original Review

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

When Al Stick first appeared on the stand-up scene, his dry, ingenious gags set him apart as one to watch.

But the last time Chortle saw him, supporting Simon Day, this gaunt, understated comedian appeared to have lost his focus on terse, efficient jokes in favour of a meandering set of weak and woolly anecdotes.

Obvious stagecraft is not his forte; instead he appears as relaxed and natural as an old friend. But while a laid-back approach can be disarmingly effective, it’s another thing to rely on easy amiability at the expense of smart material. Too often, Stick sleepwalks into the category of ‘nice guy… but where are the gags?’

For example, he notes the preponderance of late-night hairdressers in his neighbourhood, and all he can come up with is ‘who gets drunk and needs a short-back-and-sides’…. pretty much the most obvious line to take. Fine for a passing in-the-moment comment, but rather weak for a stand-up situation months later, especially given all the set-up it requires.

The problem with such segments is that it doesn’t seem that Stick is providing any ‘added value’ as a comic. The tales aren’t told with much distinctive style, and there’s too little evidence of him adding the apposite comments or witty asides that would liven them up. One of the biggest laughs he gets is from describing a crowd of working-class youths as a ‘chavalanche’. It’s funny, but also a reasonably well-used neologism. Is it really a gag if it’s been used in a Daily Telegraph headline four years ago?

There are some stronger segments, such as the old ‘East End sayings’ that are anything but parochial folk sayings, but these moments sit in a sea of the mundane.

Was this just a atypical bad gig, or symptomatic of a comic who’s grown complacent because he’s able to hold a crowd with very little effort. But since no one made it big without effort, let’s hope this was an isolated lapse.

Review date: 18 Nov 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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