Iain Stirling: Touchy Feely | Review by Jay Richardson
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Iain Stirling: Touchy Feely

Review by Jay Richardson

The irony of struggling to tell a story about a nightmare gig while performing a nightmare gig isn't lost on Iain Stirling.

A children's television fixture, narrator of ITV2's Love Island and a hometown boy to boot, he attracts a mix of vociferous elements to his show and spends his opening minutes trying to charm them into submission, unsuccessfully as it turns out.

That his stand-up is largely workaday probably doesn't help. One year on from Scotland's independence referendum he's still comparing the English-Scottish relationship to a dysfunctional romance. His dismissal of Ed Miliband's Prime Ministerial suitability is limited to a stock stand-up impression of his gawkiness, an assessment of Nicola Sturgeon a similar, one-note caricature of her aggressively kicking Vladimir Putin's door down.

Railing at friends who've quit drinking, he suggests he's more authentic for succumbing to alcohol and a reheated McDonald's burger.

Unfortunately, this prompts a debate in the crowd about whether the fast food chain charge for their paper bags. Stirling doesn't know and eventually has to start his subsequent routine by revealing he's a vegetarian. Now, no one's denying vegetarians might eat in McDonald's. Or, as he admonishes, that the audience has 'to get involved in the factual element'. But a whiff of disingenuousness hangs heavy.

He offers some more distinctive and amusing material on the etiquette of hand jobs and the blame culture of politics. But these are isolated examples amid easy digs at the far-right Britain First group, superficial comparisons of Hinduism and Catholicism and a laboured attack on corporate tax avoidance.

The problem, Stirling acknowledges, is that he needs to become more niche, find something that sets him apart from the mass of white, male, twentysomething comedians.

Maybe this was his agent's thinking when they cancelled Al Murray's appearance at a squaddies' gig on their final night before returning to combat, chucking the untried young Scot in instead, unintroduced. Manfully throwing everything he had at the doomed cause, Stirling relates his degradation with winning self-abasement, building up to a graphic depiction of humiliation that threatens to rescue his hour with a strong finale - until further interruptions from the back row.

That some people can't comprehend the effect of checking a comic's momentum is sadly obvious. But despite a few flashes of justifiable irritation, Stirling handled the situation capably and emerged with credit at the end.

Review date: 16 Aug 2015
Reviewed by: Jay Richardson
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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