Andrew O'Neill

Andrew O'Neill

Andrew O'Neill: We Are Not In The Least Afraid Of Ruins; We Carry A New World In Our Hearts

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

Andrew O’Neill is not generally a fan of binaries, particularly when defining gender – but even this impassioned comic can’t help but divide the world into ‘us’ and ‘them’.

‘Them’ are the toxic capitalists and their apologists, along with the Brexiteers, nostalgic for past glories and a simple life that never really existed.

It’s not an unusual stance in comedy, but O’Neill approaches it obliquely, with a unique style, energy and wild sense of absurdity. Indeed, for a while there’s barely any politics here at all, as the cheery metalhead anarchist unleashes a torrent of deliciously silly puns. 

Various formats allow quick volleys of one-liners, such as the catalogue of Cub Scout badges O’Neill allegedly got or the carbon-neutral hobbies they’ve recently adopted. Occasionally they’ll break out into a sung, non-sequitur catchphrase, Harry Hill style. There’s even a daft character of a Geordie conspiracy theorist who’ll believe anything. It’s fast-paced and a real blast.

Ideas come at the same dizzying lick as the jokes, with O’Neill covering a heck of a lot of ground in 60 minutes. They talk lightly about being non-binary - ‘pronoun admin, mainly’ – and how the denizens of Milton Keynes reacted with a ‘benign curiosity’ to the fact. And the comic’s take on the reactionaries harking back to the Blitz spirit of make-do-and-mend and ‘jumpers for goalposts’ is to twist those ideas into absurdity. Some dumb beliefs require less twisting to be exposed as ridiculous than others.

The title comes from Spanish civil war anarchist Buenaventura Durruti – that old comedy chestnut – and reflects O’Neill’s aim of offering a beacon of hope against the impending ecological catastrophe. Hope is a weapon and a tactic, they believe.

In that vein, the show becomes increasingly like agitprop and in the home straight, O’Neill spends the comic capital built up over the previous 45 minutes for a more heartfelt rant at how capitalism and fossil fuel exploitation will ruin us all – and how you won’t hear real dissenting views in a media that is itself part of the machinery.

But lest this get too heavy, they end with a demonic metal song that takes the 'counting magpies' rhyme into new levels of absurdity, recapping just some of the myriad of ideas that have emerged in the last hilariously hyperactive hour, both silly and purposeful.

• Andrew O'Neill: We Are Not In The Least Afraid Of Ruins; We Carry A New World In Our Hearts is on at Liquid Rooms Annexe at 5.30pm

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Published: 17 Aug 2022

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