Brighton Festival 2018
“In his 60 years on this planet, comedy writer and performer Andy Hamilton has experienced many changes. For instance, he was once a 6’4”- tall professional basketball player, until a tree fell on him. But, of course, change is an inescapable part of the human condition. Why? Is that fair? If you’re feeling flustered because of flux, Andy (who penned the BBC’s critically acclaimed Outnumbered) will teach you how to cope with changes past and future. Contains mild peril.”
The sparely dressed stage had just a stand-up mic, a table, on which Hamilton joked were his notes because he’d forget where he was, and chair, which he never sat on.
Hamilton warmed the audience up by starting with a Brexit joke – stating that it is his policy not to do jokes about Brexit as he doesn’t wish to endanger Britain’s future prosperity with a few words—“that’s Boris Johnson’s job.”
He then went on to deftly deliver an amusing and engaging first half of the show on the subject of Change. There were a mix of jokes, anecdotes and stories, blended with some interesting facts (last year more people died because of taking selfies than were killed by sharks). He tackled the subject in a rounded way, drawing from the past, referencing the war generation, and at times challenged the audience with some uncomfortable questions. But his amiable delivery and laconic approach makes him very easy to forgive.
At the end of the first half he asked the audience to write down any questions they had on the subject of change and to put their notes on the stage.
The second half opened with him talking about his career in comedy and friendships and admiration he had for old-style comedians such as Les Dawson, Dave Allen and Roy Hudd – recounting some of their material, which he acknowledged is not thought of as politically correct in this day and age. Some of which was not comfortable to hear.
This was followed by him picking up the notes from the audience and responding to some of the questions, one of which launched him into talking about football in detail for a very long time, which lost a portion of the audience. This section felt a lot looser than the scripted material, and verged on erratic rambling as he covered everything from religion to “Siamese twins” jokes.
The final section involved getting the audience to call out suggestions of a vilified figure around who they would build a ‘hate cult’. While he was making a really good point about the vindictiveness of the modern press, out of dozens of suggestions only one woman’s name was called out and that was the one he chose. This was unfortunate, as coupled with the football material and fact that all (bar one) of the characters he had mentioned in his stories were men, led to a feeling of disappointment that he hadn’t managed to make women feel included and we were left with a slightly odd taste in the mouth. He unfortunately started to sound a tad like the former presenter of Top Gear who he was defending – a sort of Jeremy Clarkson-lite, which compounded the sense of disappointment.
Hamilton is one of the UK’s greatest comedy writers but it was sad to hear him in an almost confessional mode suggesting that all the PC material work he does for TV and radio is just a front and that actually he’s just like everyone else, implicating the audience felt the same as he did. Which probably worked well in Peterborough, but maybe not so much for a progressively liberal Brighton crowd.
If this show was a game of two halves – using the over-extended football metaphor – he came out strong in the first half, but then his offence meant that his defence collapsed in the second.