Stuart Laws. When's this gonna stop? (1hr show)

Sat 2nd – Sat 23rd August 2014

reviews

Jeremy Barclay

at 18:02 on 17th Aug 2014

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Tackling 9/11, curtains, spiders and support groups: Stuart Laws’ one hour show When’s This Gonna Stop? could not be accused of lacking breadth. He gambols on stage, awkwardly sporting a Marty Mcfly-esque orange gilet, launching into an energetic first bit, and satirising the ‘quick show of hands’ voting system like a primary school teacher on speed. This –followed by an enthusiasm for audience participation – quickly put the intimate audience at ease.

Despite being made up of a collection of straightforward jokes, Laws’ biggest laughs come mainly from his reaction to his own failure to make a punch-line stick. Whether or not this is an orchestrated part of his show never really becomes obvious. Consequently, dissecting the crowd’s response becomes a running theme of the performance, engaging with every latecomer with an interrogating confidence, contrasting the general awkwardness of his on-stage persona.

Laws’ greatest downfall is a general lack of consistency that made for some pretty mediocre jokes throughout the show. Redeeming himself here and there with a kind of boyish charm, but never breaking through that comedic glass ceiling of genius writing. Laws makes various attempts at a Stewart Lee-esque subversion of the genre, but admits that ‘pulling back the curtain to my own writing is not the best way to get those laughs’. He’s certainly right, as this quasi-meta approach to his own performance is decidedly superficial: perhaps acting as a cover for having to explain his own jokes.

Just as the show starts to falter, things start to pick up again - feeding off a welcoming and jovial audience - returning to the disposition of his high-energy opening. Laws reels in jokes from earlier parts of the show much to the delight of a sympathetic audience, that seems to subscribe more to his familiar friendliness more than his jokes. His thoughts on 9/11 though funny in places, seem a couple of years too late to be deemed daringly controversial, and instead seem lazy. This is a topic that has been done to death.

The average Fringegoer is going to be seeing a lot of stand up comedy during their time here. To see Stuart Laws’ show would not exactly be a waste of your time, but it can hardly be described as something you could not find elsewhere in the Fringe. He finds his laughs where they do not belong, but laughs they remain.

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Jessica McKay

at 21:33 on 17th Aug 2014

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Stuart Laws promised his audience jokes about gibbons, Billy Joel and Dante’s Peak when he began his one-man comedy show at Banshee Labyrinth. He delivered said jokes, but their quality varied as wildly as his subject matter.

Stuart’s brand of comedy was unpretentious and simplistic, and he blended observations about everyday life with wild fantasy. Highlights included a joke about theme park thuggery and a bizarre, physical bit about lebkuchen - both of which had the audience in fits of laughter. Yet other, over-worked gags left the audience stone cold. Sometimes, it felt as if Stuart cared more about his material than his audience - on a couple of occasions he openly referenced the fact that he had left jokes in simply because he liked them, even though they hadn’t had a good response in the past.

While his jokes were a mixed bag, Stuart was consistently engaging. He bantered with his audience well and allowed their comments and heckles to shape his performance. His warm approach made the occasional flat joke forgivable.

Unfortunately, the show’s peculiar end-bit was less easy to overlook. Earlier in his performance, Stuart observed that it was ridiculous that people had put together montages of 9/11 emergency calls and played them over songs such as ‘Everybody Hurts’ by R.E.M and Enrique Iglesias’ ‘My Hero’. Yet, it was more ridiculous and, actually, downright distasteful that he then played the latter version in full and had his audience jollily ‘sing-along’ to it. Upsettingly, the snatches of distressed individuals reporting deaths and casualties could still be clearly heard. The original montages might not have been sophisticated, but they certainly weren’t as distasteful as what Stuart cajoled his audience into doing. There’s a line between black comedy and disrespect and I think it was crossed; at this point I was indeed asking ‘when’s this gonna stop?’.

Stuart’s show is definitely a work in progress; but, for all its flaws, he remains a likable guy. If you go to see Stuart take his show with a large pinch of salt...and maybe leave a few minutes before the ‘grand finale’.

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