Matt Kirshen: Keep Smiling, Matt. Just Keep Smiling

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

Matt Kirshen is quick to tell us that he’s spent much of the previous 12 months touring the US, having done rather well in the Last Comic Standing reality TV show. The trip has, after all, provided him with almost all the material for this Edinburgh show.

His transatlantic travels means he doesn’t want go down the ‘dumb Americans’ route, but he has noticed that, as a nation, they are happy, unquestioning and naïve, compared to the misery and cynicism back home. He wants one foot in both camp, happy but sceptical.

An offhand comment by a Texan woman on the miracle of air travel sets off this entertaining train of thought, imagining how wondrous modern life must be if you remain in blissful ignorance of science. This sort of thinking inevitably leads to consideration of religion, and Kirshen’s tales of how his Jewish parents tried to ‘trick God’ in the consumption of non-kosher food also yields plenty of comic gems.

Finding loopholes seems to run in the family, for Kirshen is nothing if not pedantic. He takes petty issue with a railway worker who fudged the travel information, and when a supposedly 24-hour burger bar would only serve vehicles at his drive-thru window, Kirshen invents all sorts of scenarios to circumvent the petty bureaucracy – even though the obvious one eluded him.

He even turned this ruthless logic to the Scientologist-backed Psychiatry: An Industry of Death exhibition in Los Angles. He’s not so concerned with the ridiculous premise of the quasi-religious movement, or its reprehensible recruitment techniques – rather it’s the methodology of its statistical analysis that gets his goat… and that’s an angle the drones who man the museum find harder to counter.

There’s lots of interesting and funny stuff in this hour, yet the X-factor seems elusive. Kirshen’s a slick, accomplished comic with a strong writing gene. But there’s something rather impersonal about the routines, despite the fact they are based on things that did actually happen to him. It is, perhaps, a trait he’s picked up from the American stand-up scene, where character very often takes second place to the jokes. In Britain, we tend to prefer a more distinctive personality.

But Kirshen’s an amiable guide through his solid and skilful material, which certainly ticks both the ‘happy’ and ‘sceptical’ boxes.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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