tue 27/02/2024

John Kearns, Brighton Komedia review - Van Gogh, joining the circus and pooey nappies | reviews, news & interviews

John Kearns, Brighton Komedia review - Van Gogh, joining the circus and pooey nappies

John Kearns, Brighton Komedia review - Van Gogh, joining the circus and pooey nappies

Reflections on fatherhood and creating art

John Kearns explains the purpose of his wig and false teethDavid Monteith-Hodge

John Kearns' comedy is what you might call niche; absurdist, surrealist, poetic – they all apply, underlined by his onstage uniform, or “mask”, of tonsure wig and oversize false teeth. 

But last year he took part in something very definitely mainstream – Channel 4’s Taskmaster – and knows that some in the audience are here to see not the performer who won best newcomer and best show in the Edinburgh Comedy Awards in successive years (2013 and 2014), but the sweet, giggly comic seemingly incapable of lateral thinking, the contestant destined for last place. (Actually he came third.)

Learns underlines that it’s a persona the new fans are seeing by bounding to the stage as himself, and then donning the wig and teeth. Now the show can begin, as we realise the props give him cover to delve into philosophical territory about the absurdities of life without sounding hi-falutin.

He tells us as much, one of a few self-referencing moments in The Varnishing Days, which, he tells us, marks 12 years as a professional comic. Kearns reflects on his love of art, the purpose of comedy and being the father of a one-year-old. It's a quieter, less absurdist show than he has done in the past, as Kearns talks about changing his son’s pooey nappy and his love of Van Gogh's work, or describes how Pierre Marco White cooks potatoes (the evening's standout section).

The breadth of Kearns' references to make his points are impressive – joining White in the lineup are Michael Heseltine, Neil Diamond, Jermaine Jenas and Raymond Briggs – as he ponders why artists create and why they should do what feels right for them, rather than for the marketplace at the time. (Van Gogh, lest we forget, painted hundreds of works and sold only one during his lifetime.)

The show is seemingly freeform in parts, with surreal inventions about Kearns owning a restaurant, or joining the circus, and tangential anecdotes about the importance of the time he spends with his son, but this is a meticulously constructed hour or so. Even when the audience don't know something that provides the hook for a gag, he’s unfazed and, after playfully admonishing them for not getting the popular reference, he brings the show back on course.

Although it's a tender, poignant show, Kearns can deliver big-laugh gags and callbacks in a terrific hour of comedy.

The breadth of Kearns' references to make his points are impressive

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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