Daniel Kitson: The Impotent Fury Of The Privileged

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

It’s becoming almost boringly predictable to write about how brilliant a stand-up Daniel Kitson is, but since his latest show hits the mark yet again, the superlatives need to be dusted down.

He’s in such a league of his own that he’s only really able to be judged against his own work. So while Impotent Fury might lack some of the beautiful personal poignancy of last year’s offering, it is still a work of rare artistry, ambition and ambiguity.

This, ostensibly, is a show about compassion, fear and humanity. The aspirational message is complex, but roughly goes like this: this imperfect world will only change if we, as individuals, change – but there’s such a weight of fears and social conventions preventing us from doing so, so we just have to muddle through, trying to do our best.

It’s a combination of hopeful altruism and the stark reality that the world, and everyone in it, is far too intricate for simple solutions. ‘Be good to each other,’ is all well and good as a mantra, but utterly impractical. We have to shut out almost all of the abject misery, suffering and cruelty in the world, otherwise we would never function, but that should not isolate us from basic human connections.

For an avowed misanthrope like Kitson, this is surprisingly hopeful. He’s always had a precise, delicate view of how we should behave, and a robust, vocal intolerance of anyone who doesn’t ascribe to that view. But this is more understanding, if not accepting, of human flaws. For example, he tries – but miserably fails – to reach out to the youths who mugged him, rather than swearing blindly at them.

The Impotent Fury Of The Privileged is a response to the angry comedians railing against the state of the world, while offering only impractical, unrealistic solutions. His observations are infinitely more nuanced, dissecting his own emotions when he seesg a distraught old woman down his street at 3am, as well as examining the motives of people he encounters in more mundane situations. So even a grumpy exchange with a teenager on a bus stairwell is given meaning that supposedly has much greater resonance.

Kitson excels at bathos, setting out grand, beautiful theories then puncturing them with a simple true story to expose this impractical idealism. But he still clings to that compromised utopia nonetheless, even if it’s had to be adapted by reality.

It could all be romanticised nonsense, of course, but Kitson is so engaging, witty and passionate that he makes a compelling case. The 90-minute monologue is beautifully constructed, with anecdotes and ponderings neatly nestled inside each other, so as each one ends, the pillars of his persuasive argument fall tidily into place.

Descriptions of Kitson’s shows can seem high-falutin, simply because he sets his own ambitions high and explaining them isn’t simple – but you should never overlook his ability to draw rich laughs from human flaws, especially his own. Comedy comes from deflating his own arrogance at trying to come up with an answer to everything, or from the precise recognition of our own flawed behaviour in everyday situations, which he deftly places in a wider context.

Imperfections are always funny – it’s one of comedy’s golden rules – which means this isn’t just an hour for precious, idealistic indie kids, it’s a thoughtful, intelligent, uplifting and wonderfully witty show for anyone who isn’t perfect.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Melbourne, April 2008

Review date: 1 Apr 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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