John Hastings: 10 John Hastings I Hate About You | Edinburgh Fringe review by Jay Richardson
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John Hastings: 10 John Hastings I Hate About You

Edinburgh Fringe review by Jay Richardson

If you can’t get a ticket for John Hastings charismatic hour of stand-up, perhaps check to see if his elderly aunt is performing tonight.

The mic drop moment that this redoubtable woman left her family with when delivering the eulogy of her late husband has left a considerable impact on the US-based Canadian.

Previously his sizeable clan’s go-to speaker at funerals, and a blagger of considerable front, Hastings’ confidence has been shattered. He can’t tell his future grandkids how he met their grandmother, so sordid are the details. And yet there’s this little old woman defiantly leaving it all out there. She’s already cost him the commemoration of his grandfather.

Hell, when the chance presents itself, Hastings can’t even land a gig with confused hip-hop bellends Insane Clown Posse. 

Meanwhile, American immigration law means that his relationship with his beloved is a long distance one of closed borders, yet open-ended about them seeing other partners. Sucking up their savings and maxxing out their credit cards, it’s a situation that provokes more prurient interest from other people than it does between the pair of them. Indeed, Hastings is more troubled by having to rationalise it for to family members than imagining his partner with another guy.

With his affronted, theatrical delivery, he invites judgement, the better to throw it back into his audience’s face. He affects splitting the room in half between those that are getting his jokes and those not on board. 

Having previously lived in the UK for seven years, he’s contemptuous of the class division that we’ve exported to the rest of the world and our sense of moral superiority over Americans, ramming home his arguments with solid examples of cultural insensitivity and the weighty burden of his scolding disappointment.

Brutally witty on the boundaries of acceptable racism when ordering food, he’s nevertheless painfully aware of his own limits in exploring skin-based humour or denouncing the US president who’s done so much to frustrate his love life. Being the shameful possessor of a resting angry Aryan face, he recounts the awkward situation that fellow comic Imaan Hadchiti placed him in when they were in Australia, getting stuck between a rock and the hard place of a furious boyfriend, seeking redress for offence.

Nuanced and open about the positives and negatives of his more hedonistic behaviour, Hastings’s anxieties are nevertheless never far from the surface, with the crowd volubly admonished whenever they don’t fully endorse his actions. But the pained expression creeping across his features an admission of guilt or guilt. Still, he maintains that recognition of his farting virility from an elderly man is all the reassurance he needs.

Though authoritative in his stance as a social commentator and slightly less robust in justifying his life, Hastings takes risks as a storyteller throughout, resisting the urge to wrap up the tale of his relationship with a neat happy ending, eschewing trite messages, comfortable with messy moral contradictions.

The Clown Posse don’t have enough cultural standing the in the UK to make their routine seem significant enough for its meagre returns. And despite the comic physically portraying him, his prank-loving grandfather remains under-sketched. But Hastings is otherwise assured, his dramatic inclination and energy powering the show through its weaker sections.

Review date: 23 Aug 2019
Reviewed by: John Hastings
Reviewed at: Monkey Barrel Comedy Club

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