John Kearns: Sight Gags For Perverts | Review by Steve Bennett
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John Kearns: Sight Gags For Perverts

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

Now THIS is how you do absurd comedy.

For this bold, hilarious debut, John Kearns has created the perfect oddball persona with a good heart but a lost purpose – then delivered a potent mix of excellent gags, playful interaction and self-deprecating nonsense with masterful timing and absolute conviction. Whatever dark alchemist’s secrets he’s deployed to mix these ingredients, he has forged comedy gold.

He is wonderfully inventive and fully committed to his own eccentric cause, making no apologies for the weirdness that hits the audience in the solar plexus from the very start and never lets up. Kearns enters the room in a tonsure wig and a moth-eaten horse costume, while Dick Emery-style comedy teeth give him a distinctively peculiar cadence. Why? Who knows. And while he ditches his steed, the rest of the defining get-up remains in place for the rest of the show, just for the giggles.

He indicates from the very beginning that his shenanigans may test the audience’s patience, giving us a chance to flee with our sanity during a needlessly lengthly opening number. None do – so we are all subsequently invested in making the show work, not that he needs our help.

He makes frequent references about how he’s inflicting this madness on us, part of a strong self-referential tone. Woody Allen’s comedy advice is meant to inspire him: that the degree of success a comedian will have depends on how funny a person they are, not their material. Then, after the most exquisite pregnant pause, demolishes the argument beautifully.

But although Kearns may question what he is doing, he most definitely is a funny person. Even an incredulous intake of breath is made funny, and his expressive face can make us believe he’s a tragic snail looking forlornly through a window, if he wants us to.

Pathos is at the heart of all this, below several layers of nonsense, courtesy of a lonely trip to Berlin, where he allegedly wrote the show in the throes of his misery. It’s enough to root his surreal alternate universe in the real world.

He has a few proper gags, but he is master of the non-sequitur, delivered with the most perfect timing to undercut the tension created by whatever bout of bizarreness he last spouted. These lines wouldn’t look funny on paper, it’s all in the pacing, which is always at least a few beats off the tempo you’re expecting. The most perfect example of this comes after a mid-show costume change, with a sentence apropos of nothing, that simply collapses the room to laughter.

Outside of Edinburgh, I’ve seen Kearns perform isolated chunks of material, and it’s proved hit and miss. When he’s allowed to set his own rules for his own show, it zings as we have all brought into this strange man’s weird world. The twisted, but non-threatening, audience involvement only serves to underscore that empathy.

It is a beautifully bonkers offering.

Review date: 17 Aug 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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