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Matt Kirshen: Shorter Than Napoleon - Fringe 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Nione Meakin

Matt Kirshen is generally considered a reliable laugh so it is quite possible he was just having an off night. It was, after all, 10.20pm and he was competing against the ferocious wheezing of an ineffectual air conditioning unit – but that’s not unusual in Edinburgh.

Whatever the reason, a lacklustre air hung heavy over his performance that dampened what is probably a reasonable show.

It begins with 5ft 6in Kirshen's indignation at the concept of a Napoleon complex – besides, he doesn't reckon the Emperor was as short as history would have us believe, suggesting confusion resulted from the differences in British and European measurements.

This assertion is the springboard for a series of observations on the disparities in the way things are interpreted, from our difficulties with getting a handle on size without the aid of unlikely points of comparison to the coverage of the G20 protests which, he claims, was simplistically biased on both sides.

Kirshen has some interesting points to make, but they're light on funny. Like the class swot he evidently was, he tries rather too hard to show off his sharp brain and it often results in segments that are tediously didactic. When he does manage a punchy line (and there are several) it's let down by his inability to pass it off casually. His pride at his own work is a little grating even if it's justified.

Kirshen also overestimates his audience's interest in his stories - one in particular, about a travelling experience gone badly wrong, would be fine at about half the length. But the pay-off is definitely not worth the time spent listening to the set-up and even he seemed to realise he was losing ground, as he grinned in increasingly unconvincing manner.

This was far from a dreadful show but, on the basis of this particular performance, not one I'd recommend to anyone.

Review date: 19 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Nione Meakin

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