Will Smith: 10 Arguments I Should Have Won

Note: This review is from 2004

Review by Steve Bennett

Posh even for his native Jersey, Will Smith initially seems a man of good manners, generosity and restraint. But it turns out he's a passive-aggressive obsessive of the most dangerous kind.

Like most of us, he's lost many an argument over the years. But he's far from graceful in defeat, instead expending vast amounts of time and energy on painstaking research to garner every scrap of evidence he can to make his case.

Then he flies to Edinburgh, hires space in an old cinema and goes to great expense to stage a Fringe show to passionately restate his argument; a desperate attempt to get his opinion validated, even by a roomful of strangers. And they say comedians are insecure.

What he presents are the issues that have been festering inside him over the years, gnawing away at his dignity like a cancer. Like the true Brit he is, he repressed every bad feeling at the time, pushing it deeper below the surface of his psyche until it all erupts in this pyrotechnic display of petty-minded fury.

Stuff the global politics sending the world into oblivion, the things Smith really gets passionate about are tramps' coats, insurance claims and the ailing Hollywood career of Demi Moore.

He says he's not, by nature, an argumentative man ­ proving his point at the top of the show by citing a number of confrontations he backed away from in the last week alone. It banks up a lot of quick laughs, of which plenty more will come, and sets the scene for an impressive release of pent-up passion.

Many of the rows Smith became embroiled in stemmed from the indignity of being accused of something of which he was innocent, such as having a girls' bike at school. And should you be in any doubt of his poshness, his classroom tormentor was called Piers.

As the ten arguments unfold, Smith gradually confesses more and more about his personality, even if the things to which he confesses are as ridiculous as his bowel habits or a geeky past, illustrated by him posing proudly for the camera with his pudding-basin haircut and new ZX Spectrum.

That nerdy past is long gone, of course. Now we have the nerdy present, and a man obsessed with Lord Of The Rings (which he saw five times at the cinema and tried to claim as a business expense), Mark Knopfler and Bergerac. Glamorous subjects indeed, that provide him with three of the ten segments ­ packed not with the usual cheap gags at their naffness, but what seems to be a geuine tribute to what Smith perceives as their brilliance .

Although this show is obviously episodic, Smith has rammed it full of running themes and neat little call-backs, making the hour feel like a cohesive whole rather than a series of disjointed rants. And it's all played out to a soundtrack of suitably crappy Eighties mullet rock, as if to complete the picture of him we're building up.

This is clearly a well thought-out show, jam-packed full of surprises, laughs and glimpses into Smith's unusual psyche; the only noticeable slip being the filmed segment in which he apes King Kong, rather pointlessly.

But if there's one thing about which there should be no argument, it's that this unusual, stylish and brilliantly constructed show deserves to be on the Perrier shortlist.

After all, it is a show with a message ­ and that message is: release Bergerac on DVD, now. And don't pick a fight with Will Smith, he will serve his revenge cold.

Review date: 1 Jan 2004
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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