Of all the reviewers to get cross with Carl Hutchinson for having a show about nothing much, Pete Kelly gets the crossest. “There should be a Fringe award for flimsiest premise in a stand-up show,” he growls. “[His show] conforms to the current orthodoxy that an hour of stand-up must conclude with a trite moral about how we should live our lives”.

I agree with Kelly’s feelings, in part, but herein the kernel of the comedian’s dilemma: so many Fringe comedy shows sum up with a trite moral because, if they don’t, the likes of Steve Bennett and Jay Richardson will write that your show “lacked structure” or “seemed inconclusive” or even “needs an ending”.

The trite moral at the end is how 99 per cent of Fringegoers believe they have been ridden to completion, and that they can now leave the hot dark room pregnant with some sort of notion. Even when it’s not a notion at all but a barren, stillborn platitude. So the reason why 900 comedy shows chug along to the same beats and breaks and rhythms is, I think, because people – particularly reviewers – have beaten them into the one shape they fucking like.

Similarly Kelly isn’t overly impressed with Peacock and Gamble, calling the straight man vs force-of-nature maniac pairing “really quite traditional” and “like a tribute act to Lee and Herring”. Harsh – especially when he does seem to acknowledge, between the lines, that the show works. So at this point I’m saying “Bloody hell Kelly, what DO you like?” But I don’t know, because I can only find these two reviews.

Pete Kelly expects the unexpected, and is angry when it isn’t there. So if I hear that he’s been to something totally off the wall in 2014, and then written the usual reviewer twaddle about the lack of “show structure” and “payoff” I sear I’ll be down on him like a ton of bricks.

For now I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. His reviews are well-written and he seems to care passionately about what he likes or, at these two shows, mostly doesn’t. Maybe he should see a lot more things next year, and concentrate on telling us about any that fit his template for a new and thrilling form of comedy.

Becky Walker’s Panda

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