John Robins – Edinburgh Festival review

Comedy’s kingmakers can’t keep ignoring John Robins, writes Paul Fleckney


John_Robins2The comedy circuit is alright for white, male, 30-ish, T-shirt-and-jeans stand-ups, but John Robins is clearly one of the best. He knows all too well that standing out from the rest in the minds of the masses is the tricky bit, and while his peers Russell Howard and Jon Richardson have kicked on, Robins is still awaiting his break. Incredible Scenes is a show born of this frustration – and demonstrates that he’s good enough to make a step up.

The starting point is the sorry tale of how his first big TV appearance was cancelled, after he was replaced by a vapid reality TV star, and the show periodically ponders this incident and his lack of TV exposure. The rest of the show is simply Robins getting on with the business of stand-up – he acknowledges that his cheekily blue opening 15 minutes on sexual politics has “more vagina than it says on the flyers”. It’s a brilliant section that sends some sections of the audience into hysterics, laying to rest his poorly received introduction about alternative names for the show that Robins clearly finds funny. Others remain unmoved, which is odd as Robins is not normally a divisive stand-up.

His other routines about life as a stand-up, gifts that reveal how little your family know you, dating, and hanging with Reginald D Hunter are simply quality stand-up. The fairly paltry attendance is the only thing standing between Robins and storming this gig. There aren’t quite enough to get the sort of rolling laughter that makes the hour zip along on its own momentum, even though most of the 30-odd crowd are having a great time.

His style is anecdotal stand-up with a few Rhod Gilbert-esque rants inbetween. The only complaints are that the show could probably do with a higher gag rate and Robins can afford to take his time a bit more, to give the room (and his jokes) room to breath. He also has to keep his emotions in check – he’s clearly frustrated with his lack of success but that mustn’t tip over into bitterness, and his rants are currently good-natured but he’s dancing on a very fine line.

This is a very funny show and if Robins keeps on delivering the goods, comedy’s kingmakers will find him increasingly hard to ignore.

4 stars

John Robins – Incredible Scenes is on at the Just the Tonic Caves at 7.20pm
Review written by Paul Fleckney

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