Thursday, September 11, 2008

Edinburgh Reviews: John Gordillo - Divide and Conga

John Gordillo says he set out to write a show about politics, but ended up realising he was simply having a hypothetical argument with his (spanish communist) dad, so made it more explicitly about that instead. The result is a show that is in exactly the vein I tend to look for in comics: it has a subject, a thesis which the comic wants to explain to the audience; it is engaging with the world rather than simply looking for laughs from all directions. My only problem with it, really, is that on the night I saw it, Gordillo repeatedly made it clear that we as an audience weren't laughing as much as he would have liked, or as much as previous audiences.

Perhaps we weren't, but then there's nothing that kills the mood more than a comic drawing attention to this fact and then not really going anywhere with the observation. The sooner Gordillo learns to stop doing this to himself, the sooner he will find himself able to win over those audiences he finds initially disappointing. Anyway, this is not the most gut-bustingly funny material you've ever seen, and it's all the better for that. Gordillo is not in it just to make people laugh, that much is clear from this set, and that's not a bad thing.

As for the actual content of the show, it needs a bit of a reworking. I suspect that, as Gordillo's dad made his way more and more to the centre-stage position he occupied in the show by the time I saw it, the introduction of the central idea of the show (that political extremists divide the world into an "us" and "them", and then project their own suspected failings onto the "them") had shifted itself towards the status of something like a "final thought". It would have been better to find a way to place it closer to the start, I suspect, to give the show a bit more focus and structure.

Also, the common argument-with-someone-who-isn't-there-to-defend-themselves trope which much of the stuff about Gordillo's dad fell into comes to feel a bit unfair on his dad when it runs right through the show rather than being a ten minute bit of a show about something wider, despite all of Gordillo's attempts to be fair by slipping in a few things he feels his dad would probably say by way of response to him. Ultimately, he is still diagnosing the psychological failings of someone who isn't there to answer back, and in making the show quite so much about his father personally rather than as an example of a broader point, he made this a bit uncomfortable.

Nevertheless, not entirely without laughter, and with a commendable determination to look a little deeper than your average stand-up


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