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Stuart Black: No Moral Compass

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

His face might not be a fit for TV, but comedy should be able to embrace such a smart and insightful a comic thinker as Stuart Black. Yet for all his performance know-how and elegant writing, he finds himself with a tiny audience, and indeed has decided to pull the rest of his Fringe run. It’s a shame, as he’s an act with something to say and a wonderful way of saying it.

Black describes his own comedy as a mix of poetic language and unappealing home truths, which is an astute assessment. It’s stand-up with substance, about a world as seen through his lens, smeared with the grime of experience, but not ideas above its station.

Black starts with the most relatable of middle-aged material, about the involuntary movements of the body, or who on earth would use the resealable tags on chocolate bars, yet expresses himself with quirky, original writing. Beautiful, involved imagery is evoked to described the most quotidian of situations. Take, for example, his opinion of the relentlessly upbeat, who he likens to Henry Hoovers, smiling on the outside but with whirling filth inside.

Morality is the loosely-worn theme of the hour, especially of how ethics can be so dependent on money, whether for those struggling at the bottom of society’s ladder, or those – like Rupert Murdoch, for whom Black reserves special scorn – capitalising on their evil. His own actions don’t escape scrutiny, either, describing how good intentions are no match for apathy: he would call to donate to Comic Relief but that would involve getting off the phone.

The honesty about his own life life takes us from the effect too much porn has had on his sexual fantasies to the time he spent in a West London psychiatric institution, but this is neither indulgent nor sympathy-seeking, just another aspect of his life from which he can tell stories. Unlike his mum, who’s terrible at them.

Back on to the big issues and Black takes a pop at the hypocrisy of religion, as just about every comic with a wider world view does, but again without ever feeling like he’s ploughing old ground.

Opportunity might not have knocked for Black. Or rather he thinks Opportunity is pretty much playing Knock Down Ginger with him; but comedy fans seeking an intelligent, eloquent stand-up with passion and wit should certainly come a-calling.

Review date: 23 Aug 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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