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Edward Aczel Doesn’t Exist

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

Not so much a show, this, as a test of will. Can you remain entertained by Edward Aczel’s dry-as-dust stand-up even though he wilfully shuns any sense of presentation, let alone showmanship. With an act that’s more lull than LOL, this could be the longest 55 minutes of your life.

This artisan of anti-comedy delivers the full hour in a dreary monotone, barely above a whisper, as what he’s saying is often repeated in dull black-and-white PowerPoint slides. Is this a sharp satire on comics who uses such technological whistles and bells to try to elevate pedestrian material, or is it just boring? Who knows.

Certainly a few people here didn’t get the joke, with one man berating Aczel for not being able to work off-the-cuff when he was reading one segment from his sheath of notes. That the disgruntled punter, who walked out with his mates, appeared to have got in on a venue pass, which makes his interruption unforgivable, no matter how much he disliked the show.

The slides explain his career aims; as this is allegedly a presentation to explain why this mild-mannered middle manager would be an asset to any comedy project. He’s got a process flow diagram showing how he can become bigger than McIntyre, then further frames telling us how, for example, he would make an impact on any TV panel show.

Amid the pitch is a catalogue of bizarre yet dull pilot ideas, such as Edward Aczel: Time Travelling Mediator. Straightforward lists are the best way for Aczel to showcase his odd sense of humour – the bizarre aliases he suggests for himself in his rider are particularly silly – and there are some gems here. Mind you, none of these are unlikely as Claudia O’Doherty’s What Is Soil Erosion?, a genuine Fringe show.

As well as showcasing his competence, Edward Aczel Doesn’t Exist also serves as a masterclass – or at least a class – in stand-up, so we get advice from mic technique to heckler putdowns invoking how fat his antagonist’s momma might be. The irony of such a miserable performer telling anyone what to do doesn’t need to be spelled out.

For all the spurning of comedy convention, there are actually some jokes here – aside from the big one that is his entire stage persona. One particular story, involving characters in their various hats, evokes then undermines an old Tommy Cooper sketch. But – guess what – it goes on way too long.

More than Cooper, though, Aczel is in the spirit of Ted Chippington, the listless, monotonous early alternative comedian who so inspired Stewart Lee. The problem with such anti-comedy is that it’s a nice concept but often unbearable in reality, and Aczel flirts with both in a show that’s fitfully hilarious, but equally very draining.

Review date: 29 Aug 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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