Dylan Moran: What It Is

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

Eloquently irascible Dylan Moran always gives the impression that life is an endlessly tiresome series of trials designed purely to keep him from his peaceful, wine-assisted solitude.

Even a gig is another irritating distraction, something to bumble through as quickly and with as little application as possible. He seems eager to get it over with, and makes no apologies for looking at his watch and asking if he’s done enough yet.

Showmanship is another country to him, but attitude goes a long way; and his browbeaten exasperation, distinctive point of view and floridly witty language mean the audience is rapt, with frequently inspired turns of phrase drawing out the laughs.

Sometimes his hyperbole launches into the stratospheres of surrealism, when he feels real imagery can’t do justice to the annoyance he feels, wibbling on about gravy or Zulus on spacehoppers when his disbelieving anger drives him to the brink of madness.

He starts off with his most accessible material, running through the nations of Europe and deriding their natural stereotypes, exaggerated to ridiculous degree. In this Eurovision Abuse Contest, unconvincingly billed as a plea for international tolerance, the French are smelly, the Irish ugly, the Scots violent, unintelligible drunks, the Greeks unevolved trolls and the Spanish, failed Italians. While picking on different nationalities is a staple of stand-up, the flamboyance of Moran’s inflated and inventive insults sets him apart from the pack.

He again proves that there is no such thing as hack topics, only hack approaches to them, with his superb routine on the differences between the sexes, with astute observations given a skilful twist, all described with his literary ability to evoke poignant images, which he then shatters with a smart joke. And they give a glimpse into his life, too, rather than simply reheating the generic lines of the lazy crowd-pleaser.

Aging is another theme, although he doesn’t nail his grumbles about his increasing intolerance of the mundane and decreasing health with quite the same flair as his highlight routines, although his typically dismissive grumbles about trying yoga for the first time do prove very entertaining.

However, his vagueness can be his downfall as well as his strength, and he has a tendency to lose his focus, and meander around points he wants to make. Surprisingly, given his downbeat reputation and stage demeanour, his theme is the search for happiness… but it makes sense: everything he bitches about is something standing in the way of his idea of bliss. But God forbid he ever achieves such a state of mind, as that would be his career down the pan.

He downplays his own ability, commenting sardonically that we’ve done everything he’s described; knew everything he’s told us. That might be true, but we couldn’t put them so well as him.

It is, however. a gambit to allow himself to shuffle off stage; to let us know that his job here is done. However after a show that’s about 80 minutes long – and interrupted by an interval – you might have cause to feel short-changed, especially as Moran’s semi-detached style could never be described as brisk.

In fact, there’s no real reason for any stand-up routine to be longer than this – but for the sake of a good evening’s entertainment, having a support act, then an uninterrupted flow of Moran’s moroseness would have been a better formula. And he would do well to build to a natural conclusion, rather than simply letting the show run out of steam.

But because of the moments of inspired comedy he did provide in his relatively brief time on stage, all is forgiven.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Cambridge, October 9, 2008

Review date: 1 Oct 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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