Rob Delaney: Meat

Revie by Steve Bennett at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

For Rob Delaney, stand-up is like wild sex. Inhibitions are discarded as he hurls out his most base, primal thoughts, unfiltered by fears about ego or consequence.

This hour or so of dirty talk is called Meat, and it’s clear he sees humans as little more than mewling, puking, farting, shitting, fucking meat-sacks with an urge to treat each other as, well, meat. That he’s just become a father for the third time, and all the bodily functions that requires him to deal with him, might explain both the focus on the corporeal and his abandonment of any pretence of dignity.

This is territory familiar to any fans of Channel 4’s Catastrophe and its unflinching, unsentimental look at relationships, sex and childbirth who have now discovered Delaney’s stand-up, too. When he announces the new addition to his family, a smattering of supportive applause starts to break out, as it would in his native America, but he shuts it down with an instant expletive. With attitudes like that you can see why he’s made himself at home in more cynical Britain.

Delaney’s set list reveals his depraved obsessions, covering his wife’s post-natal vagina, convoluted masturbation fantasies, sagging breasts, good farts, the time he thought he had Aids, fingering, David Carradine’s ‘inspiring’ death by auto-erotic asphyxiation, the list goes on yet rarely gets above the belt.

But it’s not smutty, as such, more of a blunt reminder that behind all our civil niceties we’re all just animals. That he doesn’t do niceties certainly makes it grossly funny, not to mention his comically brutal descriptions. Even the most mundane sentence is given a little twist as, for example, he vividly describes the fragile state of his ‘jalopy of a marriage’.

‘I don’t want to beat my wife, but…’ he starts one sentence, ominously. Though he would like to knock seven bells out of her in a wrestling ring – as she would to him – as a physical outlet for pent-up tensions. But we should be glad he doesn’t – and not just for the obvious reason. His frustrations come out instead in these sharp, crabby outbursts. But for all his grievances he knows he’s impotent to do anything. Although it might not sound like it, there’s a lot of charm that comes with this.

If he’s not entirely on-script with the feminist message of support act Bridget Christie, it’s doesn’t come from a place of sexism, ironic or otherwise. Rather he accepts his urges as just another of his failings, as an inept, dumb, barely presentable schlub.

The show has – or needs – no overt structure or flow; Delaney is not one to grapple over a segue when he can just flit on to the next topic, as if another icky aspect of existence has just occurred to him.

Perhaps surprisingly there are occasional touches of politics to go with this. Like most Americans, he’s in awe of the NHS, like fewer of them he despairs of how casual it has become to murder by drone. But the cause he’d fight hardest for is Ocado, saving him from ever having to leave the house again. Though the way he describes family life you’d think he’d want to get away.

And long may the chaos, mess and filth of his life continue. Focussed through his candour and his flippancy, it makes for brutally funny stand-up.

Review date: 26 Jun 2015
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Queen Elizabeth Hall

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