Will Mars: Schtick Shift | Review by Steve Bennett
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Will Mars: Schtick Shift

Review by Steve Bennett

‘I don’t know who I am as a person,’ Will Mars tells us at one point in this show.

And that’s exactly the problem. At the end of the hour, we’re no wiser as to who he is either; other than a bloke from the Midlands who’s just moved to New York and who hasn’t got much money because he does this for a living.

Comedians don’t have to lay their inner soul on the line for their art – although the very best ones usually do. But they do need a sense of personality. You get a fair idea of where Tim Vine’s coming from after the first silly, entirely impersonal joke. But Mars is just too bland.

We are told a few things; that he projects himself through a ‘nice guy filter’, for example, that suggests he has darker thoughts or a quelled anger, but we don’t get a feel for that. ‘Show, don’t tell,’ is the old adage of TV, yet Mars doesn’t actually show us much of his worldview.

But he CAN write a good gag. Sometimes. There are maybe half a dozen brief and well-crafted lines in this hour, and you can see why he frequently makes the ‘jokes of the Fringe’ rundowns, as the programme blurb for Schtick Shift attests. (And yes, he does use the less-common variant of 'shtick').

However, longer routines seem generic, talking about plastic surgery or dog shit or the way Americans talk loudly, all just a bit too matter-of-factly and inconsequentially. Even when he’s talking of his own experience, there’s nothing especially evocative about it. You don’t feel connected.

That ‘nice guy filter’ is certainly in place; he’s gracious about the bunch of lads who need to take a toilet break mid-routines, and his conversational delivery is polite, relaxed and unshowy.

Mars, creator of the successful Joke Thieves format at primetime on the Fringe, says he’s content with his lot, the poverty (a good thing to mention just before the ‘bucket speech’ seeking donations) being an acceptable trade-off to be doing his beloved comedy. But like so much, even his love for comedy seems academic, he’s not making us feel his passion.

Review date: 9 Aug 2016
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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