Russell Kane: Easy Cliche And Tired Stereotype
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2007
In a blistering 2006, Kane bagged an If.comedy Award nomination. He’s back, joyously tossing off easy clichés. There’ll be stand-up and sketches until nothing’s left but stinking postmodern goo
Easy cliché and tired stereotype? Sounds like a line from a Chortle review…
In fact, that’s exactly where Russell Kane got his title from: our criticism of the broad generalisations that marred his otherwise entertaining best newcomer-nominated show last year.
Twelve months on, and little has changed. In Kane’s binary world people are either pretentious Guardianistas or oikish Essex lads, nothing in the vast expanse in between, the space most of us, including himself, actually occupy.
Someone in the audience tells him they’re from Reading, a generally unremarkable town of faceless industrial estates and identikit shopping centres. Yet in Kane’s world view, anyone from here is hoity-toity, as he imagines they dine on quail’s eggs and sun-blushed tomatoes.
Kane makes no apologies for his use of stereotypes, though, in fact he positively revels in it. He presents himself as a rebel for having the guts to sticking to his guns, defying the disapproval of The Man – or the comedy reviewers with which he seems unduly bothered. But it’s possibly the first time someone’s portrayed themselves as a radical for peddling the familiar.
‘The thing about stereotypes,’ he says, ‘is that they can be inconveniently true.’
It certainly seems to apply to his father, who is painted as a typical racist knuckle-dragging cockney. Yet when he describes his mother, whose latent prejudices are more concealed, it makes for better material because there’s more depth to it.
Likewise, when he played a gig at Oxford University, he admits he was ‘surprised how open-minded the audience was.’ Completely missing the irony of his own closed mind to think they would all be inbred aristocrats from the pages of an Evelyn Waugh novel.
Yet, despite the gaping flaws in his arguments, Kane is an undeniably a great entertainer. He has a passionate, pacy delivery, a showman’s sense of timing and a relentless, buzzy energy to excite an audience. The grand gestures and exaggerated recreations of anything he describes really hold the room.
And while this show largely occupies the same comic territory last year’s, the stand-up this time around is punctuated with short sketches, which he performs with Sadie Hasler. This is where he shines, his broad caricatures and impressive performance skills being better suited to a format where simpler characters can be an advantage.
His grotesques are very funny, and his Fakespeare, in which a modern-day domestic scene is acted out in the language and pentameter of the Bard, is a brilliant idea – and has already been turned into a series of shorts for Paramount Comedy. But an Essex Herbert knowing such fine poetry? How does that fit into his stereotypes?
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Date of review: Aug 2007