No matter what he says, Carl Hutchinson is not the Larry David of the north-east
Perhaps there should be a Fringe award for flimsiest premise in a stand-up show. Carl Hutchinson’s All the Rage would be a shoo-in. The premise here is so feather-light it seems to float away almost unnoticed within a few minutes. Here it is: the Geordie comedian is worried that his fully amplified personality on stage – unafraid of confrontation, willing to annoy anyone just to score a petty point – has begun to bleed into his everyday life. This, as you might guess, is really just an excuse to tell anecdotes about aggravating experiences on trains, or on planes, or in restaurants or in branches of Greggs.
Hutchinson rushes through the set-up, suggesting he might not be so sure of it himself, yet presumably it was designed to provide a through-line for his collection of anecdotes. The trouble is he never establishes any contrast between the two gears to his personality: Aggressive Stage Carl vs Polite Real-World Carl. On stage he comes across as being so soft-spoken and good-natured that, even when enacting how he ended up handcuffed to a first-class seat on a BA flight, it’s difficult to feel the tension of what must have been a deeply awkward situation. The idea of Hutchinson as the north-east’s answer to Larry David never quite rings true.
None of these issues of structure or persona would matter in the least, though, if the stories and jokes stood up by themselves. While Hutchinson is a fluent and charming performer, none of his targets or the angles he takes on them feel particularly original. His annoyance at flamboyantly naked men in gym changing rooms, for example, is perfectly well expressed, but never rises above what you’d expect to hear from a fairly funny friend.
In the end, All the Rage conforms to the current orthodoxy that an hour of stand-up must conclude with a trite moral about how we should live our lives. The trouble with having such an unconvincing premise is that Hutchinson doesn’t earn the right to preach. If a comedy show really, really has to have a moral or life-affirming message, then the audience should be able to work it out for themselves.
Review written by Pete Kelly
• Carl Hutchinson – All the Rage is at 9.30pm at Underbelly Bristo Square