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Mitch Benn: Fringe 2012

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Jay Richardson

Russell Brand gets a BBC Three documentary about his heroin addiction, but Mitch Benn understands that his compulsion – for food – is altogether less ‘sexy’. Still, people want to know how the comic went from tipping the scales at 25 stone to 15, the answer – an all-or-nothing soup and shakes diet – is the least interesting aspect of his major lifestyle change.

As a topical songwriter for Radio 4’s The Now Show, Benn has a tendency to preach to a left-liberal choir, never more so than with his (admittedly brilliant) I’m Proud Of The BBC song, with which he indulges fans at the end of this show. Notwithstanding the fact that he’s amusing in his perfunctory dismissal of right-wing opinion, and muddies the waters somewhat with a witty, counter-intuitive argument against racial tolerance, this is an atypically confrontational and personal hour, as he claims the obese are the ‘last legitimate hate group’.

He’s undoubtedly correct to suggest that if the twisted US logic of militant fat pride can gain traction in the UK, it’ll be in deep-fried Scotland, the accuracy of the prediction confirmed by the crowd’s semi-ironic cheers. With his beefy Highland ancestry, Benn retains a personal stake in resisting such a development, blaming his parents for their genes rather than their over-loving nurture.

What’s especially interesting, and regrettably hilarious, are the minority of unsupportive emails he’s had from fellow food addicts, disgruntled that he’s surrendered to pressure to live longer for his young daughters.

He’s insightful on sustaining the denial of addiction for so long, despite an overwhelming mass of evidence to the contrary, offering up an exhaustive list of self-serving, contradictory justifications. There’s not quite enough in the topic to sustain a full hour, but he cannily uses it as a launchpad for routines about the choices we make in our prejudices and society having to tighten its collective belt.  The comparison of his toddler daughter’s unsteadiness on her feet to the British financial system is a memorable one.

Instead of his band, a Reggie Watts-style beatbox setup of looped self-accompaniment adds some lo-fi panache to his reduced setlist of songs, reiterating, if it were needed, that less can indeed be more.

Review date: 7 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Jay Richardson
Reviewed at: Stand 3 and 4

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