In Danger Money, we find Mat Ewins hacked off that he can’t catch a telly break. The annoyance could be justified: surely his prodigious skills in the niche field of hi-tech comedy would make him a TV shoo-in? Certainly, this is an hour crammed with blink-and-you-miss-’em video gags, dotty digital games – and extensive grumbling from our host that his comedy career is on the slide.
The curmudgeon shtick is overdone tonight, for my money, in a show that’s full of nerdy fun without quite generating the giddiness often encountered at his late-night Edinburgh shows. Maybe it’s first-night teething problems: one VR gag falls foul of tech gremlins; one or two others, projected on one of two onstage screens, were illegible from my seat.
But even when Mat Ewins is buffering, you get a lot of bytes for your buck. The show is (loosely) structured as the game show Ewins hopes will give him TV lift-off. Audience members join him onstage to play a fabulously unlikely version of the arcade game Pong, or – choice juxtaposition this – to pedal-power the tearjerking backing track to Ewins’ sad monologue about career stasis.
Nothing, least of all his own grouchiness, can be taken on trust in a show armed with pre-recorded punchlines, supplied by Ewins’ cheeky digital avatar, to everything that happens onstage, scripted or otherwise. That’s quite the programming (and operating) feat, and it’s matched by pleasingly twisty jokes like the one retroactively showing off our host’s ability to time travel. Even when Ewins isn’t on peak form, that combination – painstaking digital preparation in the service of gags that are either throwaway, ruthlessly unserious, or both – is always a winning one.
At Soho theatre, London, until 3 December