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Chris Kent: Looking Up, Edinburgh review

| Comedy, Festivals | 09/08/2018


Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer & Reviewer

Chris Kent proves himself to be a witty and adept storyteller, but lacks punchlines needed for the next level.

Cork-born comedian Chris Kent is James Acaster’s favourite stand-up and – for swathes of this show – you can see why.  His style isn’t dissimilar, injecting run-of-the-mill stories with a measure of absurdity by fixating on funny phrases (like “booty cover” and “sweat pea”) and heightening their impact by telling them behind an emotionless mask.  But where he falls short of his biggest fan – in this show at least – is in creating tension (without which, there’s nothing to cut through), producing punchlines and hanging his tales onto an overarching narrative framework.

The former wasn’t helped by a disappointingly small Friday evening audience, which seemed to quicken Kent’s pace and throw him slightly from his stride.  But the lack of powerful payoffs was a shame, especially as most of his stories have potential – working through an appealing buffet of ‘relatability’ food groups including being a father, husband and frustrated society member.

The parenthood material is his strongest, with Kent spinning enjoyable yarns about taking his two-and-a-half-year-old son, Jack, to ‘Rhymetime’ sessions at his local library and overblown kids’ birthday parties.  A good observer, he’s very capable at enlarging small details and repeatedly weaving them into a tale, whether that’s his distrust of “lanky kids in buggies” or the territorial nature of low-end DJs.  In comparison, the efforts to contrast his childcare approach to those of his parents are fairly one-dimensional.

Kent’s much more descriptive when praising his wife during the second half of the show, relishing her bravery during a Thai sex show contretemps and – in a section where the mask slips – explaining his fear of letting her down during a plane-boarding fiasco.  He also tells an amusing anecdote about his time as an electrician, which – despite its implausible conceit – seems eminently believable.  Because you do sense that Kent’s the sort of person funny things just happen to.  And maybe that’s what makes it hard to piece his different stories together in a clear pattern.

But that’s what this show seems to be lacking: an overall message you can take away that tells you something about Chris Kent as a person.  Without it, you can only conclude that he’s an ordinary guy seeing life’s absurdities and frustrations, and telling them almost very well.

Chris Kent is performing ‘Looking Up’ every night (except 14th) at 18.50 in Studio 4 of Assembly George Square Studios (tickets here).  Follow him on Twitter @chriskentcomic.  Review date: 3rd August 2018.

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