Paul Kerensa: Borderline Racist at the 2010 Leicester Comedy Festival

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

There’s a slightly provocative edge to a title like Borderline Racist that nice-guy comic Paul Kerensa can’t live up to. The title, in fact, refers to the fact that he’s going to explore the national stereotypes that most countries have of their neighbours.

For England, it’s that the Scots are spendthrift, the French arrogant and the Welsh sheep-shaggers. But what does Albania think of Moldova? Norway of Denmark? Ukraine of Estonia? These are the sort of questions Kerensa sets out to answer; armed with a atlas and a cross-section various European nationalities. He doesn’t get into anyone who’s not white; although he says this is the start of a bigger project, so maybe he will.

The result is an pleasurable skip through running jokes that have, until now, remained a mystery to those outside the nations concerned. It’s fascinating to learn what characteristics get picked up – the Germans have an especially wry gag about the introverted Finns, for example – and the few foreigners in the audience vouch for the veracity of Kerensa’s research.

Kerensa used to be a maths teacher, albeit briefly, and still has that combination of authority and a desire to impart information in an entertaining way. Edutainment, he elf-effacingly calls the show at one point; and it’s hard to disagree. If ever BBC Four need a presenter for a documentary about how nationalist sociology is revealed through humour, Kerensa would be their man, as he certainly brings the subject to life.

For a stand-up show, however, it’s not really passionate, personal or hilarious enough to set him out as a must-see comedian, and there's a couple or three lines here you might have heard elsewhere. The humour is mild and good-natured, and holds the interest in the subject in hand – especially in this laid-back Sunday afternoon slot, where hard-hitting comedy would overpower. But you might want more meat at a later hour.

There’s also a make-weight routine tagged on the end about the time he got stuck in a bathroom, that’s entirely off the otherwise interesting topic; an addendum that I suspect will be dropped by the time this affable show makes it to Edinburgh this summer. But in the rest of the hour, you might learn something, and be pleasantly entertained in the process.

Review date: 8 Feb 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Leicester Kayal

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