Brighton Fringe 2022
What is observational comedy? Is Nathan Cassidy an observational comedian? In this hour of stand-up comedy, Nathan Cassidy attempts to answer these questions, while recounting the story of one amazing year. Crippled with a bad back, Nathan joins a gym and meets a very strong man who changes his life forever.
Going to see Nathan Cassidy was a completely chance event. Owing to a scheduling conflict, I ended up with a free hour and decided to see the next, and nearest, stand-up comedy show. This was Nathan Cassidy, presented by Laughing Horse at The Quadrant.
At this point, I had never heard of Nathan Cassidy nor seen him perform, so I was going in without any preconceptions.
Mid-Saturday afternoon comedy can be a hit and miss affair, with crowds difficult to attract, especially when Brighton are playing Manchester United at home. As we discovered, Nathan had not had a chance to flyer for the show, so the audience was small and intimate.
However, such adversity can also say a lot about a comedian. In this case, he handled it well. Clearly, he is an experienced and accomplished comedian. Confident enough in his show that when asked if, given the small crowd, he was happy to continue, he was.
The venue at The Quadrant is a medium-sized room, above a pub, making it a nice comedy venue, albeit with the odd noisy local in the background. Again, not an issue for an experienced comic.
One’s initial impression of Nathan is that he is quick-witted, adaptable, and confident. In short, a smart cookie and an accomplished comedian.
The show opens with an explanation of how he injured his back and the measures he took to try and fix the problem. As we can see him standing up and moving freely, this is not much of a spoiler.
So far, this is a familiar stand-up framing. The combination of the pre-show advertising and Nathan’s introduction provides an identifiable start and end-point and the theme of the show.
We know that there will be a sequence of stories, jokes and the odd pun that will join the beginning to the end. With much of the heavy lifting done, the audience can follow the easily understandable narrative arc.
Such a description gives the impression that this is a simple, easy to follow show that offers little in the way of depth, novelty and originality. This could not be more wrong.
The anecdotes are well-chosen, nicely put together and a little dark. There is keen observation of human behaviour, self-awareness and a slightly cynical and acerbic edge to the comedy. The punch lines are sharp, clever and well worked. He even builds in some social commentary, absurd requests and a trick. It is never boring, nor safe.
As I took notes, I wrote in block capitals, ‘THIS IS STAND-UP COMEDY FOR ADULTS’. It is.
Nathan is very adept at leading you up the garden path, only to find that where you got to was not what you expected. Where the observation serves as the feed line, the follow-up cuts. It’s comedy with a dark edge.
Observational comedy works, to some extent, by taking a normal, boring, routine event and making introducing an element of the absurd. This happens here, and it is smoothly done.
The call-backs serve to link the show together and remind you of key moments that you can laugh at again. It’s unfortunate more people were not present as the show deserves a bigger audience.
Nathan is not averse to crowd work, and he is adept at it. He was able to refer back to audience comments, improvising where necessary. With a bigger crowd, this skill would enhance the show by building audience intimacy. His crowd work is not designed to pick on or embarrass the audience but by using rhetorical and hypothetical questions to engage in a more conversational tone.
Then we come to the finale.
It is a doozy. Well-crafted, well thought out, very original and very funny. Without doubt one of the most original show endings I have seen. It is worth waiting for.
This is clever, articulate and original stand up comedy. It is stand-up comedy for adults. Nathan is a very accomplished comedian with all of the necessary skills to deliver an excellent show. The material is dark and funny, sometime scathing and cynical, but it can also be touching and hopeful. It is very well-observed and cleverly put together.
Then, there is the finale, which is very good indeed.
You are never bored, you are always engaged, and Nathan makes you laugh. Observational deserves a bigger audience. This show is highly recommended.
So, sometimes randomly going to a show, to see a comedian you have never heard of, can pay off. Such discoveries makes fringe comedy special. Why not give it a go?