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Alistair Barrie: Happiness - Fringe 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

Alistair Barrie hits the ground running and rarely lets up in his fast-paced, wide-ranging romp through some of the biggest subjects of the day.

The spur that inspires him is the recession. And not just that: what bankers as a group have done to the economy, one of them in particular is doing to his ex-girlfriend. It gives an edge to his coruscating, corrosive rant against the greed in the system, and wins him plenty of friends in the audience who already have nothing but contempt for the privileged City boys. Barrie’s explanation of why the markets were ‘overconfident’ certainly sounds more likely that anything Robert Peston has ever come up with.

From there we blast through Barack Obama’s approval rating, his body letting him down as he agges, Muslim fundamentalists, his experiences at other gigs and national traits – all at breakneck speed. It’s a fairly familiar set-list among any club comic, but Barrie injects a freshness into everything, with plenty of short, effective gags, all delivered with infectious verve, bouncing off the audience. Even if the material is sometimes three-star, the performance is always five – and backed with a sharp comedy brain.

Everything is based, to greater or lesser degree, around the attainment of happiness, and what that actually means. The set is peppered with quotations from the great thinkers of the world: Wittgenstein, Bertrand Russell and, erm, Arthur Smith. These are a bit poncey, but typically Barrie whips on to the next topic, and next gag, without a moment’s hesitation. His laugh rate is mightily impressive.

Established circuit comics sometimes struggle at the Fringe, trying to cope with the twin demands of both an hour-long set and a different sort of audience – but Barrie has nailed it. Without any tricks or grandiose concepts he has come up with an thoroughly impressive extended stand-up routine, packed full of punchy gags and intelligent opinion, that would work in the clubs as well as it does in Edinburgh.

Another no-frills triumph for the Five Pound Fringe.

Review date: 23 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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