Carey Marx: Marry Me

Note: This review is from 2005

Review by Steve Bennett

Fast approaching 40, unmarried and in need of a theme for this year’s Edinburgh show, Carey Marx hit upon the brilliant idea of trying to find himself a wife by the end of the festival, and turning his experiences into comedy.

And what a marketable brainwave it turned out to be. He’s received acres of press coverage for his quest and was even signed up to write a book about his experiences before he’d even approached a single single woman.

But at the time of writing he’d written to 200 letters, and had continued the correspondence with 130 of them. He wanted, he said, to leave behind the travelling comedian’s culture of one-night stands and find Miss Right. Although quite how having a a relationship, even at arm’s length, with 130 women is the ideal training for monogamy isn’t quite clear.

That’s just one of many unresolved issues that surrounds the show. That he’s gone for quantity of women rather than quality sounds more like a continuation of the boastful one-night-stand philosophy than a genuine search for love. It sounds even more like one section of Richard Herring’s 2004 show in which he dated 30 women in 30 days, but we’ll let that pass.

Marx’s problem is that he’s unfocussed. Much of Marry Me feels like a show about a show, rather than the show itself. He tells of how the idea came about, of the media attention, how all his comedian friends egged him on (and he’s got a LOT of comedian friends… he drops so many names he should be done for littering).

Yet there’s very little about the actual challenge. There’s no story arc, as Hollywood types like to call it, of us following him on his adventure, willing him on, laughing at his misfortunes but hoping he’ll triumph in the end.

Which is a shame, because when he does go down this reality route, with, for instance, the cringeworthy love letters he wrote to total strangers or his amusingly flirtatious exchange with a Russian girl, these are easily the best bits. Olga proves a lot funnier than his fellow comics, at least in the retelling.

There are some other, more gently funny anecdotes: such as the date he took to a graveyard in which he tried to stage a zombie uprising to scare her. It sets up the framework for the show, but can feel more like a pub tale than solid stand-up. Still, such tales will surely stand him in good stead when he goes on the countless regional chat shows he’ll need to visit while plugging that forthcoming book.

Another consequence of his scattergun approach is that many topics he could investigate are touched on but never explored. How do we meet people today? What are the ethics of his unconventional approach? They don’t need to be part of the show, but since he brings them up in the first place, it seems rude not to go into them.

Despite all these myriad flaws, Marx gets away with it – just – with a great deal of charm and the very occasional smart line, reminding he is a comedian, not just an author of an interesting book who’s taken to the promotional tale. And the core idea of the show is so strong that there’s no fault which a rigorous rewrite wouldn’t cure - and surely one of his comedian mates could have helped him out there.

The sweet finale – some surprisingly touching Candid Camera-style footage – allows him to offer his show an uplifting message hat goes some way to banishing those doubts about the sincerity of his endeavour.

Review date: 1 Jan 2005
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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