Armchair Renaissance Man

Carlin's glimmering comic ideas are left largely unexplored

★★★
archive review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 19 Aug 2007
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115270 original

Like first time sex, Stephen Carlin peaks far too early. His wry observations at the expense of the Urban Garden venue ("basically a building site") are the funniest thing about this hour long show. Evidently more at ease chatting and riffing with the audience, it is a great disappointment when he then leads into a set comprised, on the most part, of glimmering comic ideas left gracelessly unexplored.

His use of PowerPoint is original, but his insistence on reading every. damn. word. puts one more in mind of a decrepit chemistry teacher than a stand-up comedian. Not an image conducive to humour, or indeed effortless belly laughs. If the audience never quite loosens up it is by no means his fault; a half-packed tent on a late afternoon is probably not the easiest of gigs to pull. Likewise, he cannot be blamed for the girl with the unsettlingly grim laugh a few seats ahead of me. I spend more time in awe of her hideous lungs than I do of Mr. Carlin’s comedy – for that, I must apologise.

In his favour, there are a number of sparkling gags littered throughout the set. I particularly liked his comparing Jimmy Saville to the state of Israel. Unfortunately, because of the structure of his material, when a duff joke appears, it tends to get run into the ground rather than swiftly put to one side. There is a great deal of potential here; with a tighter set and a better venue he might well reach it.