Friday, November 19, 2010

Dark side of the loon - Alun Cochrane review

Alun Cochrane at New Greenham Arts on Friday, November 5

COMEDIAN Alun Cochrane’s usual style is very much observational - a previous show of his was entitled Things That Have Happened To Me In Life, Or In Cafes “because that pretty much covers everything”.  But this year, he set himself a challenge: after receiving the tired old heckle “tell us a joke”, he decided to write some.

As it turns out, Cochrane is no Tim Vine, and his “joke jokes” are pretty groan-inducing. But he is entirely aware of this, and so the one-liners, selected in random order from a tub, played no great part in the performance, and merely supported his argument that no carefully-crafted joke is as funny as real life. The show being called Jokes. Life. And Jokes About Life., Cochrane contrasted these inconsequential nuggets with some fairly dark insights into his own life, testing his theory that humour can be found everywhere, even when serious illness invades a family.

Despite the “jokes” not really being the important part of the show, Cochrane probably shouldn’t have bothered offering to write some based on audience ideas during the interval, as he failed to deliver on this. He also seemed unaware of the relevance of the “cruise missile” suggestion thrown to him at this point, which was a pity, as Greenham Common’s history has provided a rich vein of material for many previous visitors to the arts centre.

But no matter, Cochrane’s relaxed yet riveting delivery and shadowed content is not about facts or showy flourishes of improvisational skill. It’s about finding the small pleasures and joys on the gloomiest of days, such as thinking how attractive a package he and his cute toddler son would present if he were to be widowed. Rather too dark you may think, but his wife, who is actually quite ill, has seen the show, and apparently approves.

So yes, Cochrane should ditch the jokes and stick to the life stuff, but he knows that, and it was fun to play along, deciding if each joke had any potential. As he hits more bumps along life’s rickety path, he seems able to find more to laugh at, and it’s rather touching that he’s happy to invite audiences along for the ride.

  • First published in Newbury Weekly News, Thursday, November 11, 2010

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