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Stephen Carlin Blows The Lid Off The Whole Filthy Business – Edinburgh Fringe

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

Stephen Carlin has always had an intriguingly different voice, partly surreal, party based a nerdy obsession with obscure minutiae at the expense of the bigger picture.

That hasn’t always translated into comic dynamite, however, as his fastidiously obtuse nitpicking tends to wards the self-indulgent.

But with this, his third solo Edinburgh show, he’s taken a big stride towards making his dry pedantry more accessible, and while there are still sizeable lulls, his greatest routines are things of strange beauty.

Even the old standard of comparing his appearance to someone more famous is given a witty twist, first by choosing Peter Sutcliffe as his lookalike, second by twisting the idea, line by line, with perfect timing, and leading to a couple more corking lines on serial killers.

Likewise, his take on Christmas – or Xmas as he insists on calling it – takes a refreshingly new look at the nativity story that has been much-plundered by comedians, linking smoothly into his original take on The 12 Days Of Christmas.

The routines still tend towards the surreal, but are underpinned with solid comedy ideas and a realization that you still need punchlines, even if you don’t flag them as such.

Carlin does, however, lose his way in some of the longer routines; material about World War Two and, especially, the closing and opening of curtains at the cinema get bogged down in the quagmire of their own repetition and feel like nothing more than indulgent time-fillers.

His dry, near-monotonous delivery takes some attuning to, but his voice, like his oddly formal stage attire, only adds to the image of an outsider with unhealthy fixations. It’s a shame he hasn’t yet got a consistently brilliant hour – but this show is another step in the right direction.

Review date: 17 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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