Richard Brown: This Is Not For You | Glasgow Comedy Festival review by Jay Richardson

Richard Brown: This Is Not For You

Note: This review is from 2014

Glasgow Comedy Festival review by Jay Richardson

Call it the Daniel Kitson, the Stewart Lee or the J.D. Salinger effect. But some comics really want to dissuade the general public from their shows, or at least, want to be seen to be trying. If Michael McIntyre is The Killers, then Richard Brown is Pig Destroyer. No, me neither, but that's the point. The US grindcore band sound just as you'd imagine apparently.

To give Brown some credit, he's less of an elitist snob than a misanthropic sociopath struggling to limit the number of people he has to interact with day-to-day. And if you want to know what defines an alternative comedian, he fully embraces the term. His braggadocio, big-up intro is culled from the random first lines of historical figures' Wikipedia pages; his opening, meandering preamble is more of a 'disclaimer'.

Hailing from the Borders, he genuinely seems to resent living in Glasgow, its reputation for friendliness belied by the high murder and knife crime rates. He's not a nihilist, more of a cynical, frustrated romantic, envious of children's freedom to express themselves. And he contrasts the Glasgow welcome with that of the Hebrides', their generosity and lack of guile marred only by their closeness as a community.

A committed drinker, his passions are entertainingly idiosyncratic and inconsistent. He's a sport-hating pacifist who loves ice hockey and all its red-in-tooth-and-glove brutality. Russia's hosting of his beloved Winter Olympics prompts a swipe at the moral ambiguity of the Games' commercial sponsors. But he takes the routine beyond a stock anti-corporate diatribe, mashing up familiar advertising slogans with famous, rage-fuelled movie quotes and even, deftly, his own hypocrisy, for a rant that's propelled more by its expressive possibilities than coherent messages about capitalism's co-option of art. It works well, but you'd be hard pressed to pinpoint why.

With his seething dyspepsia as a constant, he shifts between disconnected routines with little or no other segue. A flowchart presenting the sexual health of the Friends' cast, maths puns, a sardonic Twilight critique or a brief playlet outlining the best way for girls to deflect chat-up lines, it's a ragged but varied tapestry. There's pretension towards social commentary, as he's withering about those who claim to be spiritual and David Cameron's advocacy of the Bible as a handbook. Equally though, he has the grace to be embarrassed by his default anti-Lad tendencies, or rather, the militancy with which he maintains them.

An observation on 'not proven facts' is mildly similar to Lee's routine about being able 'to prove anything with facts'. But it's also the launchpad for a playful bit about time travel that leads into an inspired reclaim of the phrase 'I'm not racist but…’ as an all-purpose modifier for politicians.

Reading off, and occasionally stumbling over his preview notes, he maintains a meta-commentary on how the gig is going, which becomes explicit as he draws to an uncertain close, touching on the cliché of the jaded clown in a self-confessed convoluted manner. He tacks on some amusing, random gags he supposedly couldn't fit in but undermines this by adding a bit about the permanence of Facebook, nicely argued but lacking the oomph of a closing routine.

With his mordant wit, thoughtful contravention of accepted mores and some original turns of phrase, Brown has certainly found a style that works for him. He's never going to have massive, mainstream appeal, so job done. Still, this is a show that with a bit of sharpening up ought to be worth catching.

Review date: 25 Mar 2014
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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