Dara O Briain at Latitude 2014

Gig review by Steve Bennett

It’s hard to believe, but this is billed as Dara O Briain’s first appearance at an outdoor music-led festival. It certainly shouldn’t be his last. Even if the hippy sentiments of this place offend his rationalist sensibilities – ‘every second tent is a ditzo with a crystal’ – he delivered the goods, as expected, given the swelling crowds packing in and around Latitude’s vast comedy tent.

He is comedy’s ultimate voice of reason. While many comics might present themselves as understanding the world, it’s usually from a polemical point of view that allows them to rage single-mindedly about all that is wrong with it. Yet the Mock The Week moderator is more level-headed, contesting received wisdom using nothing more than common sense. Taking an extreme point of view might have more primal, cathartic appeal – and be an easier driver of comedy – but O Briain is more interesting for the nuance, without sacrificing any of the funny, or the ranty.

So sensible is he that he puts a legal disclaimer on a Yewtree joke, lest any 1980s entertainer he name be minded to sue.Yet also he doesn’t go along with the crowd, even when you might suspect he would – explaining, for example, why dark and immersive TV like Breaking Bad or The Killing aren’t all they are cracked up to be. It’s possibly the last taboo of the dinner party to admit that.

Brilliantly he also describes how pole-dancing and lingerie are more preposterous than sexy, but again from astute observation, not just being driven by finally-fashionable feminism.

This is all delivered with the easy style that makes every robust argument seem conversational, and peppered with the endearing self-deprecation, that we have come to expect. Unusual questions to the audience, such as ‘have you ever saved a life?’ provoke entertaining conversation, and he made something of a star of 12-year-old Zach, sitting in the front row with his parents nowhere to be seen. Still, he gets a valuable education in life, and in comedy, from watching a Dara O Briain gig.

Review date: 19 Jul 2014
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Latitude

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