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John Robins: Skinny Love – Fringe 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

Uncomplicated stand-up sometimes struggles to stand out at the Fringe, with many a strong club act struggling to maintain an audience’s interest over the longer running time.

But likeable debutant John Robins has crafted a fresh and engaging show, told with a lightness of touch but a commitment to the punchline that makes for a satisfying, joke-rich hour.

The joy comes at some expense, however, as this is the break-up show. The material he felt compelled to write after the woman he thought was The One dumped him unceremoniously in December last year.

By now the pain has dissipated, and this is neither a bitterly bilious rant at the injustice of life nor a mawkishly sentimental look back at a lost love. Rather it’s a fond remembrance of things past, memories which can now be packed away so he can move on with life.

And if that sounds like comedy-as-therapy, don’t be deterred. That was sorted out following his Sinead O’Connor phase, when he had Nothing Compares 2U on a loop, as he describes here with self-deprecating good humour. Skinny Love is simply a collection of anecdotes from his life linked together, just like a good proportion of comics’ shows, but certainly wittier than average.

Some of the topics will seem familiar: shopping at Ikea, nightclub etiquette (including a awkward dancing) and sex-education classes, but the fresh-faced 27-year-old can find new gags here.

The warmth of his delivery is probably his greatest asset. The audience become so involved in identifying with him and rooting for him, that the punchlines sneak up unexpectedly, under the camouflage of affability. Robins has an ear for a good story too, as exemplified by his touching description of the elderly man he happens to glimpse, tenderly painting his wife’s portrait, or describing the effort he made to celebrate his first anniversary with his girlfriend with a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Iceland.

If nothing else, this show might serve as a good personal ad for Robins, since an hour in his charming, generous and honest company is so effortlessly entertaining. It’s fair to say his first date with the Fringe has gone very well indeed.

Review date: 19 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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