Stuart Black: It's the End of the World | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Jay Richardson
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Stuart Black: It's the End of the World

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Jay Richardson

Stuart Black isn't the only comic currently singing the praises of his low-ceilinged, subterranean venue the Tron, while contrasting it with the busy pub full of hoi polloi upstairs and the Hogarthian scenes of drunkenness on the pavement outside.

But he has been the most successful in narrowing his audience down to a select, late-night few, his long-bestowed title of cult comedian more applicable to his limited numbers than the artistic recognition he's received.

Actually, singing is an inappropriate term for his downbeat perspective, his show title increasingly less a metaphor than a prophecy. Typical of him, he reflects, to posthumously acquire fame as a clairvoyant, rather than as a stand-up in the here and now.

Wearily into middle-age, Black's deathbed now seems only comforting, his indifference to life reinforced by the horrific vision of centenarians he sees on the news and the counter-intuitive appeal of cigarette packs' graphic warnings.

Suicide would at least afford him the comic send-off he craves. And a degree of control largely absent from his misadventurous life, the core anecdote in his show an extended account of him almost drowning in Australia after filling himself full of drugs. His desire to live contending with his fantasies about women on the beach. He pictures his sorry, bloated corpse from their perspective.

Jealous of the vocational purpose of serial killers, he nevertheless artfully rebuts the charge that he lacked passion in his former employment. Marriage and a family will likely elude him but that's a blessing given the pressure to stage a memorable wedding nowadays, as he evokes a depressingly plausible scenario of how the groom might be upstaged on the day.

Witty on the friction of holding right-on liberal views that are tolerant of everyone, with his own close circle of minority friends openly hostile to one another, Black is often dryly eloquent, with a perceptiveness born from being battered by life and moving beyond hedonism and the instant gratification he's sought in the past, not least in his spectacular misreading of the London property market.

Honest about his flaws, there's nevertheless a sense that as with his drowning story, Black is rather treading water this year, his shortish set perhaps reflecting his admission that his life tends to implode in five-year cycles, with him due another meltdown shortly. 

Despite the measured tone he sustains throughout, you rather fear for him in that instance, while selfishly anticipating the routines that it might inspire. 

Review date: 23 Aug 2017
Reviewed by: Jay Richardson

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