Darren Connell

Darren Connell

Finalist in Scottish Comedian Of The Year 2010, shortly after taking up stand-up
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Darren Connell: No Filter

Note: This review is from 2017

Review by Jay Richardson

As the breakout star of BBC Scotland's cop mockumentary Scot Squad,  Darren Connell has found minor celebrity a decidedly mixed blessing. True, he's sold out four shows at the Glasgow Comedy Festival, a fact his more experienced warm-up Scott Agnew can only good-naturedly bitch about.

But at least one of those shows has reportedly been hijacked by audience members demanding he quote his hapless TV character Bobby Muir. And he laments having to ditch his familiar glasses for contact lenses because of builders barking four-letter greetings at him in the street.

Connell had no acting experience before he landed the role, and well-meaning idiot 'Boaby' essentially reflects his actual personality, he admits. And certainly, getting Agnew on to plug his own show, when it actually preceded Connell's in the same venue, takes a special kind of misguided good intentions.

There's fond carping between them as Agnew, a former comedy course tutor, gives way to the pupil who's surpassed him, at least in terms of profile. In truth though, the strapping gay comic is filler for Connell's set, which is half an hour of Edinburgh Fringe work-in-progress, some jukebox-like requests for earlier stand-up and even a birthday shout-out for someone in the crowd. With more than 20 minutes till the end of the hour, he's already asking his tech how long there is to go.

Why then, do you not feel particularly short-changed? Well, because Connell has those elusive, naturally funny bones. And he's a far more compelling character than the enjoyable but one-note, archetypal Bobby. Although he shares Muir's rash decision-making and willingness to talk about his mishaps at length, the 'no filter' of his title, he's also acutely aware of his shortcomings.

The circle of trust in Alcoholics Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous is something he blithely disregards because the stories are so good, his harsh impressions of his fellow participants offset by him invariably being the biggest butt of the joke.

His frank admission that food is like a drug for him is just the most striking example of the confessionals that come across as entirely genuine and only a little embellished. A lapsed Catholic, his tale of attending a pro-life meeting for his God-fearing, alcoholic father's sake while off his head on diet pills isn't fully formed yet. But you're completely transported into the room as he gabbles away to an uncomprehending nun.

As he relates his stories unvarnished, there's an obvious melancholia that creeps in, as when he recalls his drunken father's less than crafty ways of keeping him occupied as a child. And when he suggests that the reason he keeps seeking a time check is because his watch was smashed in a quintessentially Edinburgh Fringe moment and  he can't afford to replace it, you pity him for an intrusive level of fame that doesn't bring accompanying fortune.

Not that he doesn't bring such disaster on himself, though. After one night out, he forewent a cab for a drunken Twitter appeal to his followers to get him home, only belatedly realising that he'd wound up in the car of perhaps the most crazed Scot Squad fan around.

Like another Glaswegian comic, Des Clarke, he's got a stock simpleton voice, allied to a facial gurn whenever he wants to portray someone mentally sub-normal, that is, perhaps, over-deployed, along with him using the peril of male rape as a punchline.

That said, he's very funny on the deflation of what it would cost for him to participate in a gay sex act since the solemn, precise declarations of his schooldays. And he's surely just being honest when he admits that after numerous AA meetings, he's still not sure if he's an alcoholic, the bar of definition in Scotland being set so impressively high.

His off-stage naivety, which he channels into Bobby, makes Connell extremely likeable, as does his easy rapport with his audience and chunky, rather sadsack quality, extending him the credit for an occasional, more calculated, dark gag. Even if there aren't enough stories in this show yet, you trust in his accident-prone nature to deliver them soon.

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Published: 11 Mar 2017


Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2011

Afternoon Comedy Showcase

Edinburgh Fringe 2016

Darren Connell: Trolleywood

Edinburgh Fringe 2019

Darren Connell: Abandon All Hope


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