Dirty Uncle Comedy Roadshow

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

You do have to wonder how the Brighton Fringe was sold to these Swedish comedians – and whether they really expected their trip to Britain to involve performing to half a dozen people in a very hot room above a pub.

It’s tough for them in any case, performing in a second language they are clearly not used to and being tripped up by social differences that prove more even difficult obstacles than words. When one act refers to a train carriage as a wagon, we know what he means; when another say ‘talking about evil… my mother-in-law’ he seems surprised by the ironic laugh, perhaps unaware just how cheesily passé mother-in-law gags have become.

Compere Tomas Ahlbeck is presumably the titular uncle figure, a relative of the rather shambolic, drunken type. He doesn’t appear to have particular grasp of his material, in English at least, but can conjure up the occasional oddly funny image; while his laissez faire attitude – if we can add yet another language into the mix – is endearing, like a Nordic Arthur Smith.

First up, Stefan Söderblom was performing only his third gig in English and his first on UK soil… and it showed. He’s a gag-driven comic, so you can see the juxtaposition of ideas that make the crux of his jokes, although the ideas are not yet really working across cultures and language and the audience sometime have to join the dots themsleves. His wife, a nursery school teacher, treating him like one of her pre-school charges is probably his most fertile, identifiable area.

Anders Celin is introduced as being the most complained-about comic in Sweden, but although he can be dark, it’s nothing that will shock a regular comedy-goer, with ideas such as maltreating midgets almost hack these days. Although his jokes don’t always land, the impishness is apparent, as his playful eyes dart around the room with every supposedly edgy line. It makes him endearing, even when being crude; as demonstrated by his most graphic take on the old gag about ventriloquists’ dolls always having their master’s hand up their arse.

Finally, a guest Anglophone in the guise of shaven-haired Kiwi Benjamin Crellin. He’s an intense, almost menacing, presence as he sets out his considered take on how technology has become our new religion, including the obligatory attacks on the old religion. He is a mesmerising performer, albeit one who is quite deliberately posturing and brooding, as effective when advancing new ideas as when reinforcing ones you’ve heard before. He could easily be accused of being more fascinating to watch than he is laugh-out-loud funny, but there’s no denying you are captivated by his performance.

Review date: 23 May 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Brighton The Temple

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