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Andrew O’Neill: Alternative

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

Andrew O’Neill may lead an alternative life, as a vegan, transvestite metalhead who prefers squats and hitchhiking to rent and bus fares, but his comedy is hugely accessible.

He’s an assured storyteller, with plenty of winning yarns about life on the road – as well as an exaggerated flight off fancy about his father, a great British ‘spacemanaut’.

His biggest strength, though is his ability to generate the fragmented, bite-sized chunks of absurdism that pepper the show, jolting suddenly out of nowhere. Some of these one-liners turn into running gags, such as his woefully limp trash talk with one front-row punter or his musings on what happens in the Kingdom of the Blind. Others are just standalone snippets from a very active comedy mind. When he needs a euphemistic simile early doors, he reels off a catalogue of maybe two dozen of them, each as inventive and offbeat as the last.

Sometimes he can crunch a whole comic episode into a few short sentences – such as the idea of a Satanist milkman; while in the more anecdotal segments of the show he relaxes into a calm, pleasing rhythm.

There are lulls, though. The sketch about gravy certainly isn’t gravy, being too long and too pointless. And he gets a bit lecturey – out of character from his normal charm – when trying to score political points. A rather cheesy ‘final thought’ also seems more to pander to the idea that a show needs a message rather than emerging from the narrative. Just by existing in his affable and funny way, O’Neill’s making plenty of statements – they don’t need to be ladled on.

But although it’s an inconsistent show, O’Neill is definitely a comic worth watching. Some of those one-liners are among the best in the country – especially a cracking Holocaust gag that, incredibly, is in impeccable taste – and he’s thoroughly charming man. Probably the best vegan, transvestite metalhead ex-squatter on the Fringe.

Review date: 17 Aug 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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