Owen Niblock Talks To Inanimate Objects
Show type: Misc live shows
Following on from his successful 2007 show Niblock vs Gig-A-Tron which was described by the Scotsman as 'ground-breaking', Owen returns with a show where he talks to things he owns.
A victim of early Leicester Comedy Festival programme deadlines, Owen Niblock had promised a show in which he talked to inanimate objects - but in the event offered what was described, worryingly, as a Dadaist take on stand-up.
Happily, this was not excuse of pretentious philosophising or agonising ‘anti-comedy’. Instead he stole the artistic movement’s idea of making nonsensical poetry out of random words, and ran his set in an arbitrary order, with each gag, song or poem pulled blindly out of a hat.
Yet it still wasn’t the best idea, as it inevitably made the show fragmented: the business of picking the scraps of paper every couple of minutes demolishing any chance of spontaneity, or of getting any comic momentum going.
The problems of this piecemeal approach were exacerbated by Niblock’s wildly inconsistent quality control. All manner of comedic styles and gags are thrown into the mix, in the hope that some will work. But in reality the upshot is that we never really get a handle on his personality – other than it’s broadly geeky and whimsical – so it’s hard for him to make any real connection with the audience. Or at least not those directly related to him, which seemed to made up a sizeable component at this performance.
Niblock has got some nice material, inspired and offbeat, but for every good one-liner comes at least one groanworthy ‘dad gag’ sold with the same conviction. Many of the poems and a lot of the jokes are also too flighty, relying on a vaguely fanciful notion to elicit a laugh, rather than a sold punchline.
The same applies to his many songs, played on his bizarre stick dulcimer – an instrument like a tiny, flat lute with an elongated neck. They’re very much derivative of the semi-surreal style of Boothby Graffoe, but nowhere near as good. Compare Boothby’s Umbrella Head Girl with Niblock’s Mirror Face Girl, for example.
He exudes the image of an enthusiastic amateur, which is rather a trend in comedy these days. But the best exponents of this style use that approach to disguise sharp writing, which is where Niblock comes unstuck. He seems more concerned with gimmicks than gags.
It’s not that good jokes are beyond him, it’s just that there are not enough of them. His best ten minutes are sparkling, but diluted over an hour with all manner of devices to act as a distraction, the result is ultimately unsatisfying.
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Leicester Comedy Festival, February 2008