Review: Daniel Kitson

TOBY PARKER-REES: ‘Basically, if you like things that are intellectually superior but not by that much, like Charlie Brooker, then have a go on Daniel Kitson’

Charlie Brooker daniel kitson George Eliot Macbeth Stephen Fry Stewart Lee The Junction

Wednesday 26th May – Thursday 27th, 8.00 at The Junction. £10-12.


This is a deeply indecisive review of a sold-out show, so it’s all a bit redundant. But hey, we’re in a recession guy, get used to redundancies. Daniel Kitson is quite funny – but you know how people who haven’t seen old Fry & Laurie say Stephen Fry is the stupid person’s clever person? Daniel Kitson’s the comedian of choice for people who think they’re a bit clever. Which goes some way towards explaining why he sold out in Cambridge.

He does some good jokes – mostly making fun of people stupider than him. He talks about ‘the confidence of people who don’t think enough’, and it is funny, but it was funny a century ago when George Eliot was talking about it. At times his overly verbose observations came off like Peter Kay scripted by Diablo Cody, and I hate both those things. But a lot of people, notably the entire audience, don’t. And although there are moments in the script that bring to mind that bit in Friends where Joey uses a thesaurus for every single word in a letter, it is preferable to the boorish dreck that is every other comedian unfortunate enough to not be Stewart Lee.

The show is about his relationship with a house, for example, and when he describes his landlord’s ruinous renovations he talks about ‘all these fixtures and fittings, signifying nothing’. It is nice to see stand-up with passing allusions to Macbeth. When Kitson doesn’t wear his intellect on his sleeve (a brown, Hot Chippish sort of sleeve. Of course) he is very good indeed. I even forgave him the unironic use of the word weft because, really, the warp and weft (yep) of his performance, with its undulating repetitions and gentle, passionate crescendos, is crafted masterfully.

It isn’t stand-up either; he sits in a nice wooden chair for the bulk of the show, surrounded by beat-up suitcases that house props and scale models of different aspects of his house. It is heavily scripted, with the only seeming departures being an amused ‘No’ to someone who started clapping as he began, and a little encore mocking someone who opened a can in the quietest, most emotional moment. Aside from these little bookends it was a dramatic monologue, a nice bit of storytelling.

It was too long, however, close to two hours I think. I don’t have a watch so I had to time it by how many times the man next to me blew his nose. A lot of times. Kitson knows some nice words and has some nice, drunk uncle ways of saying them, but there were too many. A show this gentle needs a good half hour trimmed off it – I can’t entirely blame the thirsty swine who opened his can in that poignant pause. The last twenty minutes (or five nose-blows) were full of people rustling and shifting, as Kitson rumbled on like a Volvo to Wales.

Basically, if you like things that are intellectually superior but not by that much, like Charlie Brooker, then have a go on Daniel Kitson. He is very good at what he does, and there is a lot of care and craft in this performance, which is increasingly rare. You can’t go and see this though, unless you already have tickets, which would imply that you’d already formed an opinion of your own and most likely won’t be swayed by the awkward similes and smuggery of this review. Although the fact that you’ve read all the way to here makes you seem like a bit of a hypocrite, to be honest.