Stuart Black – Edinburgh Festival review

Comic-philosopher Stuart Black is about the most unencumbered comic in Edinburgh right now

Stuart_Black2You know a comic’s gonna start getting sage on your ass (so to speak) when they start sitting on a stool. With Stuart Black, though, the role of comic-philosopher suits him well. This gig is taking place at the back of the Shack Comedy Club on Rose Street, seemingly a world away from the “big 4” and the Stand. He seems like a man who has opted out of the usual Fringe merry-go-round, found his corner and is happy here. And with meagre ambitions when it comes to audience numbers, Black is about the most unencumbered comic in Edinburgh right now. So time to get the stool out.

He’s dressed in skinny wine-coloured jeans, Chelsea boots and chunky silver rings as if he’s been on a trolley dash through Camden market, and perches on his stool, his legs V-ed up like a frog.

It’s from this informal yet absorbing setting that he calmly performs an impressive hour about the big ones – sex money death – and how they are our coping mechanisms for getting through life, when childhood innocence has gone.

Despite the potentially bleak theme, Black seems to have reconciled himself to the world rather nicely. He tells us he periodically lives in a van (further suggesting he’s either an outsider or a refugee from a Withnail & I world where artists did that sort of thing) and he is remarkably free from bitterness and anger given he’s a romantic idealist who’s just turned 40. His material is interesting and engaging, particularly his take on pornography and the beauty industry. His delivery is wilfully erudite and poetic (occasionally unnecessarily so). He reminds me of a less world-weary Dylan Moran; still probing, still exploring.

When Black starts to look inward, though, the show turns more poignant – he has a photo of his eight-year-old self by the side of the stage and laments that the adult world allows little room for the anarchic imagination and freedom of youth. To ramp up the pathos, he reads aloud a story that he wrote as a child, which inadvertently breaks rules of logic and language in that way only children can.

Very enjoyable, very thoughtful – if Black isn’t careful, he’s going to become a cult comedian.

3.5 stars

Stuart Black – Sex Money Death is on at 8.45pm at the Shack
Review written by Paul Fleckney

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