Edinburgh Fringe 2019
Simon Evans brings his barbed wit and keen eyed observations back, for an hour of very funny, grumpy comedy.
Simon Evans is in his mid-50’s, he has been performing stand up for quite some time and he is rather good at it. Gravelly voiced, with a distinctive face and a sharp mind he delivers his set with a twinkle in his eye.
His radio and tv work means he has built a following and this ensures an audience wherever he appears. This year he in Studio Three at The Assembly, and his audience has turned out again. It is fair to say they are not the youngest audience at the Fringe.
Known for his subjective analysis of the modern world, he covers a wide range of subjects. His latest Radio 4 show ‘Simon Evans goes to Market’ looked at the complexity of everyday economics. His regular appearances on current affairs and the News Quiz show him to be a more intellectual comedian.
In this respect this show is no different. He brings his laser like gaze to modern life, culture, identity and nationhood. Familiar targets, such as the over-sensitive youth are hit with confidence. Gags are delivered with punchlines that are biting, controversial and unexpected. Some push the boundaries of taste and decency, but never cross it.
Simon is not afraid to tackle difficult subjects, race and nationhood being particularly relevant at the moment. His material is littered with sources and references. He is well read, educated and informative. Facts are used to anchor the show, to make it more than opinion and to prod our own inquisitiveness. His skill lies in making this material accessible to everyone.
He trawls through time, citing and discussing cultural shifts over his life span. Entwined within are personal stories, anecdotes and things that make him grumpy or cross. His analogies are as informative as they are funny.
There is a fundamental question, asked early on, about changing times and ageing that confirms his, and our uncertainties about life. It is worth paying attention to.
Appropriately the show is delivered in a lecture theatre. This is educational comedy. Whilst it doesn’t have the answers, for many in the audience it will encourage them to think about some fundamental questions. For those who aren’t prone to pondering the eternal verities, there are more than enough laughs in this show to make it an hour well spent.
Not all the material is ‘high-brow’ there is a deliciously funny deconstruction of a standard comedy trope that had the audience howling with laughter. It also reverses the maxim that if you have to explain a joke it is not funny, in this case the explanation can be even better.
Unusually for a stand up he is not a left-wing comedian. His views seemed to have softened and he seemed a little more questioning than in the past. There is a hankering for simpler times and a past that may not have existed that is a subject for debate. As the show reveals, society and life is deeper and more complex than our immediate experience allows us to believe.
As for the facts, science and intellectual aspects of the show, even these are not set in stone. The audience can take issue with his conclusions, there are questions and issues surrounding this material that can provoke long debate.
From a technical perspective, the show is well crafted. It has a solid structure, it links back to join segments and gags together, it signposts where it’s going and the summary wraps things up nicely.
In short, this is a very experienced comedian doing what he does best. He questions your view, he makes you laugh, he makes you think. His trademark grumpiness is there and his audience appreciate the quality of his show. This is excellent comedy done well.
If you have seen Simon Evans before, you will know what to expect. However, if you haven’t I’d recommend you do. This show is a bit different and all the better for it.