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John Hastings: Unrelentless

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

Canadian John Hasings is evangelical about the British comedy scene – and the Edinburgh Fringe in particular. The happiest day of his life, he says, was August 1 this year when he began his first solo run here. Twenty-six gruelling days later, and his enthusiasm is undimmed.

And you know what? I think the UK comedy scenes is going to like him just as much in return.

This is not a perfect show – it slips into the indulgently slow-paced a touch too often – but it serves as a strong calling card for a thoughtful and observant comic with enjoyably wry sensibilities

The 20 minutes of this overrunning show that would distil into his club set are certainly strong. He breaks the ice with a great gag about Canada’s reputation for apologetic meekness, then sets up his background as one of the dark horses of a very prestigious family of overachievers. His father, for example, was the only one of Conrad Black’s lieutenants not to be indicted when the press baron was jailed for fraud.

He describes how he started comedy as an angry young man, unloading his hang-ups on an audience who only wanted to laugh. Criss-crossing North America to ply his craft was a tough gig – although one hideous night in a dive motel in rural Oregon has provided him with an exquisite first-hand anecdote.

Luckily he has relaxed his style in the UK, and now engages effortlessly with the audience. The first half of the show, especially, is full of fluid routines about amusing situations, told with charm. He even gives the inevitable Chinese global takeover a positive spin.

Once he’s won our confidence, he kicks back for some slower-paced routines, which are less reliably effective. The shaggy dog story about alcohol’s role in the construction of the Pyramids and the tribes of Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness, for example, is too circuitous to really work. A story about his possibly pregnant girlfriend seems to be going the same way, though he hits with a brutally hard punchline that shakes up the audience’s complacency – and his own.

These latter routines could certainly do with tighter writing and some sharpening of the gags, but there’s still never any doubt we’re in the hands of an appealing consummate pro. He won a best newcomer award back at home a couple of years ago, and he’s building on that promise nicely. We should be grateful he’s decided to do so in the UK.

Review date: 27 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Laughing Horse @ City Cafe

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