Brighton Comedy Festival review: David O’Doherty

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David O’Doherty arrives, as presumably he always has done, seemingly somewhat surprised to see us.

The keyboard is at hand, although not used constantly throughout the hour, as he gets distracted by one thought process colliding into another. He warns us, in an entirely casual and low rent way, that he’s getting too big for this sort of thing, that he’ll be playing stadiums next.

This said as he struggles to balance an electronic keyboard on his knees. Actually, the image of him playing Wembley with a Casio seems all too plausible.

You get the impression of ancient wisdom contained in a reasonably young head. A guru inhabiting the body of a mildly precocious eleven year old boy. He spends a good deal of time mourning the loss of – if not childhood innocence, then certainly childish hope. Some of that is infused with the good old cliché of intelligent Irish charm, but it’s mostly O’Doherty’s own charisma, able to take a mundane shadow of life (a pathetic cheap cuddly toy), and imbue it with poetical grace.

What this hour is about then, is screaming into the abyss, not because life is pointless (even if it is) but because screaming into the abyss might conceivably make life more interesting. Like Blur’s professional cynic, David O’Doherty’s heart isn’t really in it. Instead, he’s befuddled and underwhelmed, angry not because life is so terrible, but that it so clearly could be something wonderful if we were just a bit nicer to each other.

If you’re a regular member of comedy audiences, you tend to get a bit cynical about those moments in which the performer gets lost in a conversational cul-de-sac, or – as in this case – trips over their own keyboard, leading to a wilfully low energy segue of hilarious awkwardness.

The temptation is to assume that such moments are staged, but it’s worth noting that these sequences are sublime, and – more importantly – that it’s supremely unimportant if the diversions are planned or not: from the outset, he has us in his gentle command.

It leads to an intimate finale in which he opens up to us (in more ways than one), reminding us that we could all be anything we want to be, that we are capable of changing the world, if we are just able to retain that childish glee. A hopefully nihilistic hour. Who knew there could be such a thing?


Performed on Saturday 10 October 2015 at Brighton Comedy Festival.

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