Confirmation, were it required, of Kearns’s brilliance
It’s not easy getting a seat at John Kearns’s second show, Schtick. Clearly word has got around since his Best Newcomer award triumph in 2013, and Kearns himself describes his situation (and his look) as “a joke that’s got out of hand”. But it’s worth making sure you get to the Voodoo Rooms early.
Kearns remains the weird but wonderful act of last year, with his monk’s wig and false teeth the visual signifiers of this, but they are if anything the least strange thing about Kearns’s act. Instead, what makes his a true original is the pace and tone of his shows. In Schtick, the pace is funereal, and the tone is melancholic – but yet it is a very funny show. It’s a sort of Adagio For Strings, with a laughter track. He must have the shortest script of any comic in Edinburgh, bar those fucking mime acts.
The show broadly picks up where Kearns left last year: rather than a struggling comic, he’s now a successful one, who’s quit his job as a Houses of Parliament tour guide, turned pro, and moved out of the family home.
Security hasn’t followed, though. You get a sense of a man constantly yearning for constancy and stillness – two of the more elusive properties of life. He feels safe at his nan’s house, and prison would have its benefits, he says. You can add the Voodoo Lounge to that list of safehouses. There he has created a sanctuary as much as a show; a place of calm contentment away from the insanity of the rest of the Fringe. Inbetween the laughter (there is laughter, just to remind you that we’re talking about a comedy show here, sorry, my fault), it’s terrifically quiet, as Kearns holds the room, a vicar who’s gone way, way off script.
In fact he ends up talking about religion, and compares it to comedy. Casting a cheeky eye towards a few stubborn souls to his left, he says he needs the “non-believers” in the room, otherwise he’s just preaching to the converted. I strongly suggest you go and see which you are.
Review by Paul Fleckney