Andrew Doyle: comic on the edge
Andrew Doyle’s stand-up persona is at once totally in control and teetering on the edge. As you enter the lofty hotel conference room housing his show at The Stand 6, he’s buzzing around, showing people to their seats like an overworked maître d’. But he’s not short-staffed; it’s all by design. An attractive young couple are seated – purposefully – in the front row, so that once the show starts he can declare their relationship a husk and hit on the unsuspecting young chap.
Doyle courts audience participation – even heckles – only to undercut them, by way of precision-cut one-liners or, when someone gets too big for their boots, bile-soaked put-downs. It’s a risky strategy, but he thrives on it. And as well as providing some big laughs at the top of the show, it lays the groundwork for what follows: a tightly structured yet somehow raw performance, in which Doyle’s persona oscillates between sharp-tongued cynicism and furious sincerity.
Swigging from a glass of cheap voddy and waxing lyrical about his career woes, he’s every bit the circuit-weary cynic. His 100mph tirades are broken up only by impromptu readings from his notebook of TV-friendly puns, in an alleged attempt to keep the show upbeat and give the punters what they want. But, as the show enters its second half, moments of insight, sincerity, concerns beyond himself, begin to grin through.
He jibes at the privately educated, Tory voters and monarchists, only to congratulate them for daring to hold unfashionable views. This left-wing comic is seemingly more animated by the self-righteousness of his own camp than by the wanton privilege of the other side. This builds not so much to a rant, but an exorcism, with disdain for smug Guardianistas, snobby Remain voters and speech-policing students erupting from his mouth like lava.
It’s hilarious yet startling, as if propelled by long-repressed passion. But then it stops. His old cynical self slips back in, as do the puns, and once again the audience is left dangling. It’s riotously funny, the work of a comic at the top of his game. But by the end you’re left wondering if you witnessed a one-off explosion or an airtight recital, which, one presumes, is precisely what this usher-come-comic wants.
Tom Slater is deputy editor at spiked. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_
Andrew Doyle: Future Tense is at The Stand 6 until 28 August.
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