Daniel Kitson review – seat-of-the-pants caper funnier than it has any right to be

Stand Comedy Club, Edinburgh
Kitson delivers a last-minute set of quarter-baked routines, but it’s still a pleasure to be entertained by his unique humour

It’s from one extreme to the other with Daniel Kitson these days. You get the complex and technical solo shows – often billed as theatre – and you get seat-of-the-pants capers like this. This fringe run was announced at the last minute, involved “very little work” (according to his blurb) – and sold out in a heartbeat. He makes his entrance singing “I haven’t thought about this show at all”, and delivers an hour of non-sequiturs, half-formed thoughts and quarter-baked routines. It’s funny – when is he not? – even as it made me pine for a good old-fashioned Kitson standup show, for a difference split between his two modes of over-involved and under-rehearsed.

Who knows when – or whether – we’ll get it? “I have largely lost interest in comedy,” he tells us – although that’s chiefly to tee up an amusing fantasy sequence about owning an orchard. It’s a lovely reverie, with a nice kicker of a coda – and the nearest we get to a developed routine. Its only rival is a section on a pottery class Kitson attended with his mum, which mines that activity’s lack of glamour (“blistering anecdote!”) and his teacher’s eccentricities for idiosyncratic comedy.

Here as elsewhere, it’s a pleasure to be entertained by a brand of humour that – in the subjects it addresses; in the quality of Kitson’s thought – is unlike anyone else’s. The respective difficulty of running a marathon, and not telling anyone you’ve run a marathon; men boasting that they cry at movies – who wouldn’t want to hear the routines that Kitson may yet develop out of these tantalising nuggets? For now, they supply brief flares of comic excitement before our host’s interest meanders elsewhere.

The first 10 minutes of the gig is admin, and half of the rest supplies Kitson’s running commentary on what he’s just said and how the audience responded. There’s a thrill to engaging with that liveness and radical honesty, and – as he keeps reminding us – it’s well worth the £5 ticket price. But finally, it’s a lesser thrill than watching Kitson when he’s worked out precisely what he wants to say.

• At Stand Comedy Club, Edinburgh, until 25 August.

Read all our Edinburgh festival reviews.

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Brian Logan

The GuardianTramp

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