Edinburgh Fringe 2019
Climate change is the news at the moment. young people around the world are concerned about the planet on which they will live their lives. There seems to be little appetite to actually change anything. Dr Matt Winning, a climate scientist asks are they right? and if so, what is going to happen? An academic takes to the stage to deliver a funny lecture about the end of the world.
This is stand-up comedy with a difference. It is comedy with a serious message, supported by evidence. Lots and lots of evidence. But be aware this is not some dry academic lecture, delivered in a professorial style. No, this learning as it should be delivered, fun, challenging, interesting and because Matt is Scottish, some dark, slightly tasteless banter.
Matt is a proper scientist, with the appropriate academic pedigree to back it up. He works in climate change research, and the data, hypothesis, theories and worldwide research keeps him awake at night. He is concerned, as it turns out for good reason. You may also wonder why a busy academic would decide to spend his summer holiday in Edinburgh talking about his research.
Oddly, given the seriousness of the subject, he delivers his show with a cheeky, impish grin on his face. He has a winning manner and friendly, outgoing demeanour. From the moment you walk in, with REM playing, he is greeting everyone. The beat is bopping along, and the full house were in a light-hearted mood.
Surprisingly this was not a young audience, more grey hair in the room than you would expect for a show dealing with climate change, something that has recently energised various youth movements. Very much the zeitgeist. Perhaps a good thing.
The show is structured around three fundamental questions and a slightly over extended running gag. Each segment is packed with data, references and reports. In between he weaves personal anecdotes and the odd embarrassing photo. We laugh a lot and then we feel scared.
This is a call to arms. It is a laying out of the mechanism of climate change, the data that shows the impact it’s having a statement of what will happen and an extrapolation of what may be preventable. He does include some surprising facts, things you would never have thought of, framing points differently. In the end the facts don’t care what you believe.
As an educator, an explainer, he is outstanding, no doubt about. Complex research and data is presented in such a way that even a small child, or a comedy reviewer, could understand it. The impact of the graphs, the slides and the referenced reports is clear. He clarifies the actions we can take and what Governments and Business can do to make a real change.
Where, perhaps the show falls behind is that as skilled a presenter as Matt is, he is not a stand-up comedian. This means the show is not laugh packed gag fest. Certainly, there is plenty of comedy in the show, and the material is well delivered but you are aware that this is an academic, rather than a comedian delivering it. A good thing, a comedian delivering the data would undermine the seriousness of the situation.
This show is Highly Recommended because the fact that Matt is not a stand-up comedian does not detract from the quality of the material and the message delivered. It is a show that educates and entertains, it calls the spirit to action and it does make us laugh. There is hope yet! Matt has created a show for the climate change believer, those who find all the competing arguments confusing and climate change deniers. It could not be more of its time.