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Joel Dommet: Neon Hero

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Jason Stone

Like rather too many young male comedians, Joel Dommett has built his Edinburgh show around a failed romance.  He maintains that his tale is true and even provides photographic evidence to underline this.  Rather than use the real name of the woman he chased across the Atlantic – a celebrity he met in a TV studio –  he borrows the name of a woman in the audience and throughout the show he refers to his quarry as 'Caroline'.  It shouldn't matter whether or not his account is an honest one but Dommett certainly wants us to believe that it is.

But there's a greater problem than the arguable authenticity of his story: whether it's true or not, his tale is not quite interesting enough to sustain an hour-long show. To be blunt, it's hard to care about the doomed romance, as it doesn't provide enough laughs.

This early performance was beset by technical problems, too, as well as Dommett’s apparent lack of preparation – and although he didn’t let any of it throw him, he should learn to stop looking at his watch.

Early on, Dommett bantered engagingly with a young American couple in the audience when investigating the idea that each of us can identify a famous person we fantasise about.  This was Dommett at his best as he demonstrated his quick-wittedness and his charm.  He teased the couple in a friendly fashion and drew several minutes of decent comedy from their exchange.

The young comedian was also impressive when describing the experience of being photographed for Pick Me Up magazine... an opportunity that had nothing to do with his burgeoning fame as a stand-up comedian and actor.  He was actually spotted when working at his dad's market stall and asked to take part in a photo-spread on 'men in uniform'.  He uses this story to underline his obscurity in comparison with 'Caroline' and it works well.  It's cleverly self-deprecating to admit his willingness to be photographed in such a humiliating fashion even if he claims that he was motivated by money rather than by the burning need for further exposure.

The more his show is dominated by Dommett's account of his trip to America in pursuit of 'Caroline', the less engaging it becomes.  It becomes possible to believe it really is a true story as the details become ever more swaddled by the tedium of unrequited love. Eventually, Dommett is like an acquaintance at a party who has inexplicably decided to pour out his heart after cornering you in the kitchen.  Never more so than when he reads a poem he apparently wrote for 'Caroline'. It's dreadful and that's the point but it sounded suspiciously as though he was trying to strike a poignant note and it fell badly short of this.

There's real potential here as Joel Dommett is confident and charming but he needs a more substantial theme.  He's no more responsible than any other single comedian for the preponderance of self-absorbed young men determined to display their sensitivity as they describe a recent romantic failure, but he's going to have to look beyond the bounds of his own life if he wants to make a name for himself.

Review date: 9 Aug 2011
Reviewed by: Jason Stone

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