Uther Dean's comedy is meandering, narrative in structure and occasionally falls flat - but when it hits it's sweet and clever with a hint of pathos.
Uther Dean is a storyteller. I mean this in a practical sense, in that it’s his job (he’s a playwright, as well as a stand-up comedian) but also in the sense that this is who he is; as a person, at his core.
Elevation, Dean’s show at this year’s International Comedy Festival, is a collection of funny and/ or interesting stories all based loosely (and some much more loosely than others) on the U2 song Elevation. Weaving together little anecdotes Dean prefers to build to a punchline, often staying on one gag for several minutes, rather than blasting the audience with one-liner after one-liner. When that tactic pays off, it feels worth the wait.
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Dean's comedy comes from sometimes subtle sometimes very silly wordplay and cleverness, although last night the jokes didn’t always land. Dean seemed to be suffering from first night nerves, and at times the self-deprecating jokes about a fumbled line or a joke which didn’t quite work seemed like a bit of a crutch, and one that too many comedians lean on when the set goes a little awry. Having said that, I saw Dean perform his show My Fat/ Sad at last year’s festival and the show was unbelievably polished and professional, so this may have been an opening night blip.
Some of his slips also managed to turn a weakness into a strength, showing Dean’s skill at ad-libbing and ability to talk shit off the cuff and still land a few good impromptu zingers. This is what I mean when I say he's a storyteller - the man knows how to spin a yarn.
Like My Fat/ Sad, Elevation holds an undercurrent of sadness, which Dean manages to mine effectively for laughs. The show is about everything and nothing and Dean weaves together an overall narrative convincingly over the best part of an hour. This isn’t mile-a-minute comedy but if you like slow-burn humour and jokes with a bit of depth and pathos, this is the show for you. I also learned a lot of (mainly useless) facts - and how many comedy gigs can you say that about?
Uther Dean is playing at Q Theatre until May 11.