Alun Cochrane: Things That Have Happened To Me In Life, Or In Cafes

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

Alun Cochrane is a man of simple pleasures. A semi-archaic word, a tiny social awkwardness or even the right item of knitwear is enough to cheer him up for the whole day – and his hope is that just by sharing these modest delights, some of that unexpected glee will rub off onto the audience.

He refers to himself as a ‘laid-back storyteller’, though the incidents he relays are not exactly Greek epics. Something as mundane as recalling a man eating a peach and drinking Red Bull on a train is enough to set him off for a good five minutes.

It’s a mark of his understated charisma that he can hold an audience with such seemingly inconsequential trivia. The observation is made in skilful detail, and his utterly disproportionate reaction to these minor occurrences – whether positive or negative – is his comedy fuel.

He doesn’t rant and rave, nor is he obviously driving from one punchline to the next, instead coming across as merely a friendly bloke amiably shooting the breeze about things he’s seen. So you can never accuse the show’s wordy title of being misleading.

He slyly boasts – as much as his unassuming demeanour allows – about his lack of formal technique, with pathetic attempts at catchphrases or proper gags, and he confesses to no interest in what’s going on in the world outside the Cochrane bubble.. When he gets to use words like ‘julienne’, ‘gazpacho’ or ‘toothpickey’ in his routine, that’s a source of much more pride than any contrived punchline could possibly be – although he does feign surprise when he cracks one of the small handful of proper ‘joke jokes’ in the show.

It’s a tall order to be able to get by on personality alone – as so many dire open spots who feel jokes are beneath (or more likely beyond) them can attest. But Cochrane has an angle concealed behind that jovial, easy-going demeanour; with most of the laughs at the expense of his own reactions, curiosity or bafflement, rather than the actual ‘things that have happened’ themselves. Although his measured delivery is mature, his mind is not. That’s why the silly words amuse him, and that’s why he finds such joy in the subtle exaggerations that give some of his routines a hint of surrealism.

It’s not quite enough for the entire two-hour duration, and the show ebbs and flows with some routines seeming to please him more than it does us. It’s endearing that he doesn’t seem to know which will sink or swim, but even if something doesn’t catch the imagination, you’re never too far away from something good. And while the show’s relaxed premise may seem like an excuse for lot of flim-flam, there are some sterling sections in here, with ideas like the ‘twat tax’ sure to endure.

As a show it is, however, missing something. Not a robust structure, exactly, as that would ruin the unprepossessing conversational nature of Cochrane’s act, but maybe just an occasional theme and – most importantly – an ending. As it is, he just seems to dry up on stories, so the show peters out anticlimactically, rather than concluding with a memorable set piece.

But such quibbles aside, there’s more than enough here for a solid two hours’ entertainment, in the enjoyable company of a skilled raconteur.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Leicester Comedy Festival, February 2008

Review date: 17 Feb 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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