Eddie Pepitone:  What Rough Beast | Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Soho Thearte

Eddie Pepitone: What Rough Beast

Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Soho Thearte

Most mainstream comics base their act on the premise that they are just like you. Eddie Peptone bases his on that he’s just like you - had you made a Lot of very poor life choices.

He is a bilious sad-sack of festering anger, at himself, at the deterioration of his uncared-for body, at world that’s unjust on both a personal and a systematic level.

Though 56, his substantial girth is clad in a Batman T-shirt, which is perhaps an analogy for his own double-identity. For the self-proclaimed ‘bitter Buddah’ also offers a more upbeat running deconstruction of his own show. After a tour-de-force rant he might allow a cheeky smile, patting himself on the back for a bit of comic business well done. The tone is tongue in cheek – after all, genuine boastfulness doesn’t sit naturally with his wretched persona – but it does reinforce his hard-won ability; and the fact that all his indignation is impotent.

The two layers work together better than they ought, the commentary offering some lighter relief from the intense loathing of his most resentful diatribes. And his desire to entertain is drawn from the same anguish that fuels his fury; the need for approval just a bit too desperate.

His rages are delivered at a holler because, he says, it commands attention. You can’t avoid a madman yelling in the street, goes his argument, and this show is only marginally different from that. If you ignore the brusque elegance of his language and wit, of course. The tone might superficially be similar to a hundred ‘grumpy old men’ comics, but the wonderfully unexpected lurches in his writing, full of surprisingly abrupt but perfect analogies, delight as much as they emphasise a cruel truth.

Set pieces on a broader canvas imagine a Price Is Right contestant trying the put a cost on the brutal wastefulness of the Iraq War or the chief executive of BP delivering a very honest advert. On an inward-looking level, he ends with his ‘signature piece’ when he moves around the audience heckling himself with very specific, very personally wounding, putdowns from deep within his unsatisfied psyche. He extends his corrosive mocking of comedy-club convention with his ‘round of applause if…’ exhortations, way more intense than the standard ‘…if you’re drinking tonight!’ variety.

Stage is the outlet for every miserable dissatisfied voice in his head – an ‘exorcism’ he calls it – and there are many. So he is desperate to satisfy his audience. ‘I’m doing this for you people. I know your town’ he aggressively boasts as he drops in a few London districts, even if he pronounces Fins-berry, no doubt deliberately. Angry Pepitone is a character that knows it’s a character; postmodern Peptone is a great comic pretending to be a desperate one pretending to be a great one. The show, as he’s keen to point out, is more cleverly woven than it might appear.

On one hand raw and powerful, on the other smart and knowing, you get the best of both worlds while the Pepitone persona languishes in the worst of everything.

Eddie Pepitone: What Rough Beast is at the Soho Theatre until May 24.

Review date: 16 May 2015
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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