Kevin McCarron

Kevin McCarron

New Zealand comedian Kevin McCarron started performing in the UK in 1997, and is now best known as resident compere for several nights in the Laughing Horse Comedy chain, which he helps to run.

He is also an academic, teaching stand-up courses alongside his more formal job.

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Kevin McCarron: Divorce - The Truth

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

Kiwi comedian Kevin McCarron is getting divorced after 22 years. On the strength of this show, we have to assume his wife got custody of the jokes.

This sluggish, unfocussed hour gathers together every half-cocked idea and wry observation he’s had in years, with no particular attempt to relate it to the supposed theme of the show. That wouldn’t matter if the jokes were great, but ‘mildly amusing’ is pretty much the standard.

As McCarron observes at the start of the show, he should be on to a good thing, demographically, with a show about divorce, given the failure rate of British marriages. But at best this scratches the surface of the topic, leaving any of his target audience drawn in by the title disappointed with what turns out to be a meandering collection of largely unsatisfying anecdotes and obvious observations.

For instance, a sarcastic throwaway comment about the title of U2’s Where The Streets Have No Name – a song inspired by New York’s numbering system that came out a mere 22 years ago – is shoehorned into his divorce set on the grounds that it was one of his wife’s favourite songs.

Or he tells us about the time he saw a sign that said: ‘Trespassers will be shot. Survivors will be shot again’. It’s not that surprising since several versions of the joke notice are widely commercially available. Yet this is considered worthy of inclusion.

A final example of weak, irrelevant material is the recollection that early in his career he asked the audience to give him a topic on which he would talk, only to receive the reply from one bored and exasperated punter: ‘Nuclear war followed by the complete extermination of every living organism on the planet.’ Not the best heckle in the world, but of passing interest. But the story of that ancient exchange is still in this set. The payoff – ‘that’s the last time I take my wife to comedy’ – is a third-rate heckle put-down sometimes evoked in a tricky moment, not a punchline deserving of all the patience needed to get through this tale’s interminably involved build-up.

McCarron does try to get back on topic from time to time, talking a little about family life with two children – although this mostly involves a disgusting story about unblocking a turd-clogged toilet – and about his new girlfriend; which is primarily an framework for disdainful comments about the culture she persuades him to absorb. (‘Sartre? Oh fuck off’ is pretty much his considered response). Only a couple of his anecdotes show much promise – one heartless yarn about the death of his wife’s cat, and another about him teaching comedy to prisoners – but they are far from lean and polished.

There is a interesting, if bleak, tale to be told here, which McCarron, does hint at when he speaks moving out of his family home and into student digs, where he has lived for the past year. He tells us this only to set up a story about the cleaners catching him in his underwear, but it accidentally reveals more about the realities of his life than most of the rest of the hour put together.

He successfully mines his situation for his pathos-rich closing tale, when he recounts how the full force of the split hits him hard, and hits him unexpectedly. It would be a powerful payoff to a show that exposes his weaknesses and vulnerabilities. But that’s not this show, so it stands alone as a tantalising glimpse of what could have been had McCarron taken a deeper, more revelatory, look at his own situation.

The overall impression is that he is just not trying enough. McCarron been performing stand-up for 12 years – and even teaches it – but you wouldn’t tell from this hour that still looks like the early jottings of an inexperienced rookie. He also sways nervously from side to side as he delivers his material, which is distracting, too.

One cause of friction in McCarron’s marriage is that his wife didn’t like him doing stand-up. Perhaps now he can spend more time with his act, he’ll be able to knock it into much better shape than this disappointing effort.

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Published: 25 May 2009

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