Tricky one this. This appears to be a case of a very talented chap who has bitten off more than he can chew for his debut hour. Carter is ostensibly a musical comedian – he won the Musical Comedy Awards 2012 – but he’s pushing and pushing to do a whole lot more (which marks him out from other musical comics).
Not content with just letting the songs do all the work, Carter also does a lot of (sat down) stand-up between songs, adopting the persona of an obnoxious, privileged idiot who seems to think his cosy suburban life is full of danger. There’s also the odd stunt involving getting stuck into the audience, and a ridiculous dance.
Essentially Carter is attempting to be a comedy polymath, nail all the tricks in the book, from physical humour to irony to audacity to awkwardness … if he were to pull off everything he attempts in this hour it would be a major achievement, as it stands he partially succeeds.
His bread and butter – musical comedy – has some gems such as his childhood murder song and one sang as a mid-West granddad telling a story; they display a wit and turn of phrase that most musical comics simply don’t have. But too many fly under the bar set by Flight of the Conchords. Musical comics take note – FotC’s Business Time closed the file on R&B songs about seduction and sexy times played on an acoustic guitar, and Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros has done the same for heavy over-rhyming. His stand-out tracks – and we can add his Cats spoof to that list – appear to have come when he forgets that he’s ever watched FotC.
The persona is also varying in its success. He carries it off superbly at times, with some lovely asides that demonstrate his utter lack of self-awareness, but this is a persona that many people won’t like. Tonight’s audience never warmed to having a slick, good-looking talented man with a Home Counties accent joking about his middle-class upbringing. Despite knowing he was joking. From the moment he introduced himself, you could almost hear the buttocks clenching. It wasn’t until the brilliant finale that they finally unclenched. Too late by that point.
Elsewhere there were jokes with extremely long set-ups, half-hearted attempts to steal audience members’ clothes and an extended jumper-folding vignette played to complete silence – basically riding bareback on the horse named awkward humour. These are all high-tariff manoeuvres that much more experienced comics than Carter struggle with.
So an ambitious and at times impressive show. This won’t be the best of Carter’s career, but it’s a good place to start.
Review written by Paul Fleckney
Rob Carter: Murder (and Other Hobbies) is at the Underbelly Cowgate at 6.30pm