Steve Hughes At War With Satan

Note: This review is from 2004

Review by Steve Bennett

Steve Hughes makes his Edinburgh debut with a solid hour of pure, straightforward stand-up that ultimately proves just too familiar to stand out from the Fringe crowd. Despite the many points in his favour, this easygoing Australian just seems to have bitten off more than he can chew in tackling the full hour.

The title comes from a Venom album, a fine example of the unfashionable heavy metal he loves so much. But, a couple of anti-Goth gags aside, this is not the theme of the show. In fact, it doesn't seem to have much of a theme at all.

Instead, when it comes to the choice of topics, he just ticks the boxes of what we would expect ­ drugs, porn, the war on terror: all the topics that usually come into a comic's radar, all present and correct.

The material he gleans from this is done with a sharp style, mostly adding at least something of his own spin to the familiar observations, and overusing the word 'unbelievable' as punctuation, if the stupidity of the situations he's highlighting needs further underlining.

There are certainly some great routines in the mix ­ if only about 20 minutes' worth - with a discourse on gay men being far from the effete 'poofs' they are often laddishly dismissed as being a real stand-out ­ but there's lots of filler, too.

Do we really need to hear once more what it's like to be high on drugs, or another reinforcement of the national stereotypes that's become such a tired comic staple? It's when he's pondering 'what would Australian porn be like' that he's at his weakest, and most disappointingly formulaic.

Hughes, who could easily be Australia's No 1 Boothby Graffoe impersonator, is immensely laid-back, casually smoking and drinking through the hour and chatting with the casual confidence of a comic at home in front of a crowd, even with material as wildly patchy as this.

To pull off an hour of gimmick-free, structure-free stand-up, especially so late at night, requires a rare talent, and one that Hughes doesn't quite possess, for all that's in his favour.

Review date: 1 Jan 2004
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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