Kwame Asante: Open Arms | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Paul Fleckney © Huw jennings
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Kwame Asante: Open Arms

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Paul Fleckney

‘Hotly anticipated’ is an over-used adjective for debut shows, but Kwame Asante’s debut genuinely is just that. He’s been knocking around on the circuit for a while, since winning the  Chortle Student Comedy Award in 2012. It is worth the wait, though, a classy, laugh-out-loud hour of stand-up. 

Oddly enough, I find Asante is not a comic who instantly reassures an audience that they’re in safe hands the moment he walks onstage. He doesn’t carry himself with that kind of confidence, as if he’s too nice to be funny. 

That feeling doesn’t last long. 

His set is joke-heavy and, most notably, he’s been blessed with impeccable delivery, which squeezes every last bit of comedy juice out of each punchline. 

Asante is a junior doctor, which perhaps explains the long gestation period for this first show. Not long ago he moved from his family home in London to Birmingham, where he lives alone. This big change in his life is the underlying theme of the show, which is loose enough for him to weave in his routines about his life before and after the move. 

There are plenty of great moments to choose from, like his routine about missing his friends, except when they try to make him go clubbing. He doesn’t seem the clubbing type, I have to say. 

He also has some very funny material on race. Having worked on a geriatric ward, he’s been subjected to not just awful but bizarre racial abuse, and he presents this entirely without judgment, as if he’s un-offendable. You get the sense that he has infinite patience as a doctor. 

The most irate he gets in the entire show is when talking about the two-hour seminar on diversity he was forced to attend (which has a delicious payoff). More innocuously, he has a funny section on having to explain what Wales is to his Ghanaian friends, after the Welsh football team did so well at the Euro 2016 championships.

It’s impressive stuff. Perhaps holding off on the debut show for a few years – aside from a 40-minute show in 2014 – is why Asante’s is better than most first efforts. His comic antenna is sharp, identifying the potential in some unlikely situations, and this is complemented by a lightly worn intelligence. Some of his material is the type that you couldn’t come up with very quickly, there’s time and thought gone into it, and it’s paid off. Then with that softly spoken delivery to bring it home …

For his finale, Asante tells us why he thinks Ukip should be part of a coalition government, using the party’s own logic against it, in an absurdly funny way. It’s a little bit of razzle-dazzle to end on a high, in a show that’s almost completely without lows. He says he is approaching a fork in the road: comedy or medicine. He has to pick a career, the current situation being untenable. I know which way I want him to go.

Review date: 16 Aug 2017
Reviewed by: Paul Fleckney

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