Stuart Mitchell: Dealt a Bad Hand | Review by Steve Bennett
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Stuart Mitchell: Dealt a Bad Hand

Review by Steve Bennett

Stuart Mitchell can always count on being compared to Dave Allen. For like the Irish comedy legend, he too has lost fingertips – and has a few tall tales to explain how.

But after some discussion with the audience, he comes clean, and reveals it was the consequence of a childhood accident involving a manhole cover. Still, he can joke about it now – as the punny title of this debut attests.

And his misadventure turns out to be just the first of a series of tragic incidents in his life. His mother took her own life when he was just seven – he and his older sister finding her body – and the his father died last year of stomach cancer.

‘Dead dad’ shows have become such a familiar trope on the Fringe that a fellow comedian told Mitchell he was virtually being hack in talking about such formative experiences. But Mitchell doesn’t exploit his loss for mawkishness, rather the biographical details, awful as they are, offer a backdrop against which he can drop lots of straightforward ‘joke-jokes’.

For Mitchell is old-fashioned in that way, telling a bit of a story then cracking jokes based on it. While the basis for the gags may be dark, the punchlines themselves tend to be surprisingly jaunty, releasing any tension. The jokes must help a man who’s been through so much, for he’s affable and upbeat in his delivery, making this far from the comedic ‘misery memoir’ it could have been.

Later in the show the anecdotes themselves become humorous, without needing prop of add-on gags, as as he tells of his dad trying to scam a disabled parking badge because of the fingers, of playing a tough gig in Glasgow’s Barlinnie prison or his big acting break, being cast as multiple rapist and murderer Bible John in an STV drama. Yes, even the lighter stories here have a dark heart.

Mitchell’s default setting is self-effacing, but there’s actually some strong comic craftsmanship gone into this charming mix of light and shade, which he needn’t be modest about at all.

Review date: 13 Aug 2016
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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