Andy Kindler: The Ugly America Tour | Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Soho Theatre, London
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Andy Kindler: The Ugly America Tour

Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Soho Theatre, London

Night after night, Andy Kindler goes out and destroys… his own career, that is.

For this Jewish-American comic’s very shtick is that his angsty compulsion to forensically analyse every joke –  often before getting to the end of it – is sabotaging any prospects of success.

‘Slick,’ the Evening Standard called Kindler, according to the quote on his Soho Theatre posters, which suggests they must have confused him with someone else. Because if self-deprecation was an Olympic sport… well, he’d probably come last because he’d kibosh his own efforts at that too

It’s almost the definition of redundant to offer a critique of his gig, since he so painstakingly picks it apart as he goes. ‘The punchline is over but I’ll keep saying unnecessary words’, he’ll confess. Or: ‘My act is me saying what’s on my mind at any time. A lot of people say, ‘why would you charge for that?"’

Early on he reveals that he has ADHD and OCD,  prone to intrusive thoughts and certainly not compelled to keep them to himself. So if he frets whether jet lag is dulling his senses, that he’s ill-prepared for his first UK dates in more than a decade, or rusty for doing hour-long sets (he’s reluctant to call what he does a ‘show’), then he’ll voice them. And they are all partly true.

It’s a sort of masochism as he revels in his failures, and inability to sell out any venue. This approach also conveniently lets him off any expectation to succeed. He can write great gags, as he occasionally proves, but would much rather deconstruct them.

In a world of thousands of comedians, Kindler’s style is certainly unique – and an act any self-respecting stand-up nerd ought to experience. No wonder there were so many comics in the crowd on opening night.

He parodies not only himself but the topes of his craft room from ramping up the Jewish mannerisms like 'What am I? They guy who goes "what am I?" To a running joke exposing all the overused mechanics of stand-up by boasting that he was the first comic ever to do them.

But the shtick works best in short doses, and the hour ebbs and flows – since his very premise is that he can’t do well more than fleetingly, he has to keep losing the audience. Momentum is a dirty word.

Often very niche references will do that job for him, heightened by his disregard for what cultural touchstones have made it this side of the Atlantic. ‘Anyone remember Beetle Bailey?’one bit starts

Occasionally the deliberate obscurity works well because the reference is so wilfully opaque. One gag references  Dennis Kucinich – a mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, from the 1970s – but other times it seems accidental.

Even Jimmy Fallon’s sycophantic interviewing style is barely known over here, let alone the personalities of Bill Maher  or Dane Cook, whose star burned brightest about a dozen years ago, and these chunks do depend on at least some passing knowledge.

In a similar vein, Kindler is obsessed with Louis CK, admitting to a schadenfreude about his downfall since he’s long been bitching about him, purely out of professional jealousy, he claims. Again, it’d help if you knew what Horace And Pete was.

Such routines were born from his legendary annual attacks on the showbusiness industry and fellow comedians at Montreal’s Just For Laughs festival. ‘He bit the hand that feeds him,’ could go on his gravestone, but know that can apply to audiences just as easily as the Hollywood elite. If you accept that before you buy a ticket, there’s nothing quite like an Andy Kindler gig.

Review date: 7 Sep 2018
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Soho Theatre

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