Carlsberg Comedy Carnival: Bo Burnham, David O'Doherty

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

With local lad David O’Doherty and teenage American sensation Bo Burnham, this could easily have been billed as a musical comedy double bill, although neither tinkled the ivories quite as much as you might have expected.

Burnham, just 19 but with a much older head on him, is a star of the YouTube generation, racking up millions of views for no-budget videos of himself at the keyboard in his bedroom. The internet has also made him astutely aware of the clichés of stand-up, as it would be hard to think of a comic newcomer ten years ago with such a thorough grasp of hack topics, as explored in one early musical number.

So keen is he to avoid such comedy formulae that, uniquely, he engineers his songs so they don’t have proper endings, as he wants to earn his applause, not reply on the Pavlovian claps a conclusive cord will always prompt.

The tunes, splendid as they are, are just one element of this dizzying, fractious set: a fast-cut montage of smart, surreal-tinged one-liners, near-the-knuckle asides, poetry and even a mock Shakespearean soliloquy. He crams a lot in, and mostly the quality is high.

There are gags here worthy of Emo Philips, as well as pithy, elegantly-expressed ideas that should earn him a place in any book of great quotations. Wise beyond his years, he takes bitter whip-sharp cracks at his ex-girlfriend and affects a precocious arrogance that he intends to be ironic – although there’s no escaping the fact he’s very good at what he does.

He was put off his stride by the pounding bassline from compatriot Reggie Watts’ set in the next marquee, perhaps understandably as there’s a definite beat to much of Burnham’s comedy, whether extrinsically in his wry songs or cunning verse, or more subtly in the rhythms of has gags. He’s certainly used that musical background to master timing, which only heightens his impressive material.

Veteran compere Joe Rooney had half that equation of delivery plus content. He’s a smooth operator with an innate confidence, though much of his material is solid rather than inspired, with pedestrian takes on the disclaimers at the end of adverts or the DVD piracy warnings, topics where other comics have found much better gags.

Yet elsewhere there are great lines – equating the dangers of the internet with more lo-tech fears from his childhood, or his routine mocking the encyclopaedically trivial knowledge of Gaelic football commentators, which he conclusively made his own.

Like Bo Burnham, David O’Doherty rationed the musical content which once defined him. Of course we got his mildly indignant Beefs 2010 to end, plus an odd duet he wrote about an encounter a tiny Shakira, but he was tonight keener to show the breadth of his experience.

This includes a stint as a floor cleaner at a German sausage plant, thus giving him the most limited familiarity with the language, and a long stint at a bicycle repair shop. He offered to help the audience with any bike-related maintenance issues, while tapping irritatingly at his child’s keyboard, in a routine that must have seemed a better idea in theory than it turned out in practice.

But his stand-up routines proved a delight. The idea that superlatives have been devalued was a fine slice of comic pedantry, while his descriptions of how he resolved his frustrations with an ex is a lovely bit of storytelling, evoking almost filmic visions of poetic anger. Good stuff.

Review date: 25 Jul 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Dublin Iveagh Gardens

What do you think?

Live comedy picks

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.