Review: Ollie Horn: Comedy for Toxic People

A deliberate confrontational style that works against the show's momentum

comedy review (adelaide) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Ollie Horn image courtesy of the artist
Published 25 Feb 2024

Who is this show really for? Ollie Horn’s return to Adelaide is billed as a show for toxic people, and so naturally his on-stage persona is suitably toxic. He is judgemental, self-involved and prone to overt virtue-signalling. But are we not sufficiently toxic if we’re not enjoying it?

The UK comic is frequently confrontational – so much so that the wispy narrative throughline he attempts to follow (something about relationships?) is constantly, systematically derailed by his own crowd-work. Few audience members are safe from his twitchy, reactive commentary; he flirts with and belittles almost everyone with scant regard for the show’s momentum.

Perhaps that’s the point, but it frustrates more than it entertains. It’s one thing to be performatively controversial, it’s another to wield it to comedic ends successfully. There is a well observed character at play here – Horn is demonstrably a gifted comic, with wit and confidence aplenty. And many comedians weaponise problematic traits in the ways he is trying to do, but with more incisive commentary underpinning the smarm, and better pay-offs than simply being mean and horny.

He claims the show is an experiment, to make us feel like we’re in a relationship with a toxic narcissist. In a way, that’s right on the money; Horn seems more interested in making us feel uncomfortable for his own sake than rewarding our time with a cohesive act.


Ollie Horn: Comedy for Toxic People (and their friends), The Austral Hotel, until 16 March