Simon Evans: Genius, on tour | Gig review by Steve Bennett
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Simon Evans: Genius, on tour

Note: This review is from 2018

Gig review by Steve Bennett

All men are not created equal, that’s Simon Evans’s argument, nor should we pretend they are. 

His modestly-titled show is a response to the current orthodoxy we are all special and talented little darlings and can be what we want to be, if only we dream – a notion he haughtily pooh-poohs.

It’s not without irony that Evans reasons this from a very elevated position. His image is privilege personified, all dressed up tweed. Some gags explicitly acknowledge that fact, but his patrician demeanour is more than enough to do that job for him.

His natural home would be in the plush leather armchair of a fusty Pall Mall gentlemen’s club, brandy in one hand and The Times cryptic in the other, pontificating to anyone who’ll listen. As he ages – he’s 53 now –that persona fits him all the more comfortably.

In that vein, he can be a little wordy, using verbosity as an adjunct to authority, but over the hour his unhurried pace draws you in to his line of thought. When best applied, that technique offers an elegant way of drawing out a story. Going upstairs and forgetting why is a staple middle-aged gripe, for example, but Evans plays it out into an epic saga.

The underlying anti-egalitarianism is certainly bound in with snobbery, but as he looks down on society he makes a strong case for what we’ve lost in dumbing down over his lifetime. 

That’s ably illustrated in his closing routine, highlighting the difference between the 1973 edition of the Guinness Book Of Records from his youth and the edition given to his son last Christmas. The first is packed full of arcane facts and figures requiring, well, dedication; the latter a loud scramble of corporate puffery and social media flim-flam rather than real achievements.

Britain’s intellectual descent has wider connotations, he suggests, too, as personified by the confederacy of mediocrity that rules the nation (though that’s one up on the intellectual void in the White House). The spectacles Evans now needs might be rose-tinted when he looks at the nation of the past, but the argument is nonetheless convincing, even if it’s out of step with most modern thinking. 

It is a certainly slightly right-wing view, but of the common-sense sort rather than a swivel-eyed Farage, even if Evans is just as certain in his opinion. More precisely, the comedian is a libertarian, especially when it comes to mocking the nanny state for daring to say how many units of alcohol we should be quaffing.

Evans practises what he preaches, too, declining to dumb down his own references as he laments the authority of Kenneth  Clarke’s Civilisation. He has the best material  on John Stuart Mill or Ruskin you’ll hear in a comedy club anywhere… but though the references are erudite in origin, none of his routines should exclude anyone. He wants to make sure he can educate us, a manifestation of that patrician ethos again.

Taking his commitment to book-learning to extremes, he suggests a revised version of Finding Nemo that would pass peer-review by marine biologists. The hilarious routine sparkles with well-researched detail, and surely his movie is a crowdfunding campaign waiting to happen.

This is one of many delightful routines that mean Genius is enough to give elitism a good name.

Review date: 5 Nov 2018
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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