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 an altogether 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. Which just happened to be Nathan Cassidy at Laughing Horse at The Quadrant.
At this point, I had never heard of Nathan Cassidy nor seen him perform, so I went in without any preconceptions.
Mid-Saturday afternoon comedy can be a hit-and-miss affair, with crowds challenging to attract, especially when Brighton are playing Manchester United at home. We discovered that Nathan had not been able to flyer 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. 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 an excellent 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 explains how he injured his back and his measures 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 pre-show advertising and Nathan’s introduction provide an identifiable start and end-point and define the show’s central theme.
We know that a sequence of stories, jokes and the odd pun will join the beginning to the end. With much of the heavy lifting already 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 depth, novelty and originality. Such a view 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 dull nor safe.
As I took notes, I wrote in block capitals, ‘THIS IS STAND-UP COMEDY FOR ADULTS’. It is.
Nathan is 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 and creates comedy with a dark edge.
Observational comedy works, to some extent, by taking an ordinary, boring, routine event and introducing an element of the absurd. Nathan does this here, and he does it smoothly.
The call-backs link the show together and remind you of key moments you can laugh at again. Unfortunately, more people were not present as the show deserves a bigger audience.
Nathan is not averse to crowd work and is adept at it. He was able to refer back to audience comments, improvising where necessary. This skill would enhance the show with a bigger crowd by building audience intimacy. His crowd work does not pick on or embarrass the audience but uses 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 a doubt one of the most original finales I have seen, and it is worth waiting for its’ arrival.
Observational is a clever, articulate and original stand-up comedy show. This is stand-up comedy for adults, and Nathan is a very accomplished comedian with the necessary skills to deliver an excellent performance. The material is dark and funny, sometimes 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 and always engaged, and Nathan makes you laugh. Observational deserves a bigger audience, and I highly recommend this show.
So, sometimes randomly going to a show to see a comedian you have never heard of can pay off. Such discoveries make fringe comedy special. Why not give it a go?