March 30, 2016 2:00 pm
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Reviewed by Nina Keen
Before the show even starts, curiously titled Off The Hook is already brilliant, as drawings and watercolours from the comedian’s various books are projected onto the back wall. They are surreal, interesting and often hilarious. The stage is still empty and already Dylan Moran seems to be nailing it.
As soon as he does come onstage and begins his signature mumble-grumble-build-up-into-strange-mumble-yelling, he’s so unique, so quintessentially ‘Dylan Moran’, that in the early stages of touring this show it must’ve almost felt almost like he was asking “Did you miss me?” to audiences. From political material about the EU to anecdotal stuff about getting older and grumpier, his self-conscious cynicism and bleakness ad absurdum, which have, of course, become his trademark, hit home run after home run.
His relentless misanthropy and almost aggressively sardonic phrasing work brilliantly for his material, giving even observational stuff on subjects that could otherwise feel a bit tired or over-done a genuine freshness and a real edge. Not everything is one hundred per cent original, naturally (sometimes, like when he talks about his wife and the differences between the two of them approaching an almost ‘her indoors’ feeling, his material suffers for it) but generally speaking, there’s a real sense when watching Dylan Moran that you really couldn’t be watching anyone else. His humour is intelligently blacker-than-black, and rather than simply opting for ‘did he really just say that?!’ punch lines laced with lazy shock ‘value’, he takes seriously heavy topics and moulds them into something comically absurd. His bit about “ISIS going well with cheese” ingeniously captures and reflects society’s desensitisation to real life horror.
Occasionally though, it feels like he does rely on a strangely blunt approximation of his character to make lazy jokes he couldn’t otherwise get away with. ‘Dylan Moran’ is so much more than a cantankerous old bugger who was once old before his time but is now growing comfortably into his cynicism; he’s a self-declared misanthrope who at least cares a little bit about other people and morality even though he claims not to care at all.
For the most part, though, Off The Hook is a very enjoyable and brilliantly crafted show. For the most part, it’s clever, it’s insightful and it’s very, very funny. Indeed, if instead of the two sections of forty minutes it were an hour-long show with some of the more obvious material taken out the audience would be happier for it. His tone and his presence are so excellent that he manages to make things like bringing himself back on track after a tangential rant and even pausing to check the time downright hilarious. His delivery, which varies from muttering to yelling (yet always somehow mumbling), is unique and brilliant, as is the way he crafts his comedy. If only that were all there is to it.