Wil Anderson – Original Review | Review by Steve Bennett

Wil Anderson – Original Review

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

Although one of the better-known stand-ups in Australia, with a host of TV and radio credits to his name, Wil Anderson hasn’t made much impact in the UK…. mainly because he’s rarely here. He’s performed at the Edinburgh Fringe just twice, scooping a Perrier newcomer nomination at his 1999 debut, but this run at the Riverside Studios is the first time he’s played London.

And the verdict after 80 minutes of effortlessly slick stand-up is that it’s a lot easier to be impressed by his craft than it is by his art.

The gripe is that he tends to discuss only the easy subjects, from how the middle-aged male body is badly designed to Jeremy Kyle, shark attacks and the suicide bombers’ promised 72 virgins. He always does a solid, workmanlike job, but on almost every topic there is already better material out there from other comics. The casual comedy-goer won’t spot that, of course, and is almost certain to enjoy the ride through stand-up’s second-greatest hits; but more seasoned audiences will be frustrated at the constant reminders of superior routines. That was surely why his 2006 Edinburgh comeback was largely overlooked.

His comments about saying ‘no offence…’ after the most cutting insult? A second-rate Dom Irrera. The idiocy of intelligent design? A poor man’s Robin Ince. That when you grow older, hair sprouts out of unexpected places? Reheated Billy Connolly. The joys of fingering? A softened Jim Jeffries.

It is, however, all delivered with absolute perfection. The tone and rhythms are textbook, with clearly-marked punchlines coming with faultless regularity as he seamlessly flows through his subjects like a master conversationalist. His sizeable, mostly antipodean, audience love him. It may stem partly from the comfort of hearing a voice from home, but they are in thrall to the fast-talking funnyman.

He is unmistakeably Australian: the fact he wears flip-flops with his otherwise semi-formal suit is testament to that, and his routine is lightly scattered with local references such as the Cronulla race riots, Triple J radio, David Hicks and phrases like ‘the Aussiest thing ever’. But accessibility is the name of the game, and Anderson is diligent in ensuring nothing goes unexplained.

His technical expertise brings every routine to life, and away from the much-covered terrain the results are impressive. He has thoroughly entertaining anecdotes about a ‘honk if you love Jesus’ sticker and a Down’s Syndrome rock eisteddfod, which benefit from having the hallmarks of personal experience. Plus there are also stand-out gags about the electric chair and those aforementioned beach riots that seem a lot more original.

But such delightful moments are too few and far between, as he slips too quickly back into familiar ground where he finds pickings a bit too easy. But with the skills he’s acquired he could certainly be more creative, with little risk of losing his adoring audience.

As it stands, it seems as if Anderson has absolutely mastered all things that can be learned about stand-up, from performance to writing, but is struggling with the one thing that it’s hard to teach: inspiration.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Riverside Studios, Hammersmith, Dec 2008

Review date: 11 Dec 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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