Andrew Doyle: Thought Crimes | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Steve Bennett
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Andrew Doyle: Thought Crimes

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Steve Bennett

Many left-wing comedians are turning on the failings of their own team this Fringe, but few do it as vehemently and eloquently as Andrew Doyle.

He’s long been an advocate of unconditional free speech, and here puts in a passionate argument that dissenting voices – even those of hatred – should be allowed. He is seriously worried how dissent is shut down in the name of liberalism (ironically) and refuses to be silenced by groupthink.

As a Guardian-reading, metropolitan, gay man in the arts, he broadly agrees with the agenda of the left. But he also paints himself as an outsider from orthodoxies across the board. Early in the show, he rejects the hyper-sexualised gay dating scene, but soon moves into even more fertile area of politics.

For as a leftie, he recognises that authoritarian imposition of liberal ideals is counter-productive – and certainly doesn’t buy into the worship of Jeremy Corbyn as some new Messiah, glorified by adoring acolytes at Glastonbury.

On the other side of the fence, he triggers a Tory-supporting audience member when he calls Theresa May a ‘venomous hag’ and the accusation of misogyny rears its head.

This intervention, taking offence at language, is rocket fuel for his argument, and it allows him to ramp the invective up to overdrive. The woman’s interjection is so pertinent you might think her a plant – though it seems more likely that Doyle knows he’s going to upset someone at some point, so has the nuclear option prepped and ready.

For when this initially good-natured comedian goes into full flow, he becomes as inflamed as the Jonathan Pie rants he co-writes with performer Tom Walker. You can certainly tell that the diatribes of the online fake reporter spring from the same aggrieved brain as this smart and provocative stand-up show, which recognises that not every political argument falls clearly into ‘them’ and ‘us’, never to be cross-pollinated.

This talk of politics and freedom of expression dominates the show, but not at the expense of the comedy. Doyle has fun flirting with a single gay man he finds, dropping in surreal images, teasing the Scots for their educational standards, and getting wound up by bad grammar (maybe there’s some speech he does want to curb – as the train most emphatically does NOT terminate at the end of its journey).

As he describes in the nub of the show, Doyle genuinely seems to be losing left-leaning friends over his stance, which is their loss, for they are losing a sharp, informed and witty dissenter with whom to debate. You don't have to agree with him – that’s the whole damn point – but he’s certainly worth hearing out… and he’ll make you laugh, too.

Review date: 20 Aug 2017
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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