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Carey Marx: Scoundrel

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

Scoundrel? I suspect most people leaving this show will think Carey Marx a lot worse than that – although it’s probably not a word Edinburgh City Council would want plastered on billboards.

The reason is the fake séance (is there any other kind?) that he conducted when a teenager working in a holiday camp. Though intended as an uproarious practical joke, it seriously spooked his unwitting friends after the ‘spirits’ revealed deeply personal secrets and troubling information about dying relatives. As he describes in hideous, but hilarious, detail, none of them were quite the same again.

And the most surprising aspect about this story? That Marx – whose comedy today is dark, sweary and provocative – was once a jolly Pontin’s Bluecoat, entertaining children with silly magic tricks.

Nowadays, he has little time for the conjuror’s art, believing it to be a ridiculous way to make strangers look stupid. And that distrust of misdirection leads him to be deeply cynical about the usual list of rationalists’ bugbears: psychics, homeopaths, Uri Geller, and anyone who believes in God.

But although the empirical, atheist approach is a familiar one, it’s the ruthlessly uncompromising way that Marx tackles it that makes this so much fun… well, for godless fans of testable science, at least. Any one of the baseless tenets of homeopathy, for instance, is palpable nonsense that it’s intrinsically ridiculous, but relentlessly demolishing them one by one, even when the debunking job has already been done, has a powerful cumulative effect. There’s really nothing like kicking a belief when it’s down.

When it comes to religious faith, Marx starts from the fairly childish argument: If there is a God, then may he strike me down now… but all the blasphemy in the world won’t stir Him. Again, though, the fun is not in where this routine starts, but where it leads. His version of why women menstruate, as taken from the scriptures, is particularly memorable.

There’s a mischievous, impish smile as he slaughters all these sacred cows, but you’re never left in any doubt his intent is serious. ‘I don’t want to undermine your beliefs,’ he tells any religious people in his audience. ‘I want to stop them.’

This is a must-see for any sceptic. But don’t take my word for it… you’re supposed to be a bloody sceptic.

Review date: 21 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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