For someone who knew at 16 that he wanted to be a stand-up comedian (announcing it to the world on the quiz show Blockbusters) and who took a drama degree, Daniel Kitson is far from the clichéd comic one could have expected. His appearance - the ramshackle college lecturer or, as he was once dubbed by the Brighton paper The Argus, a bearded reject from the Munich beer festival - is anything but showbiz. Nor is Kitson ever what you would call over-rehearsed, not always committing sets to memory, as was remarked upon in Edinburgh in 2004, where he endearingly leafed through notes like the said lecturer.
He is, however, even at 28, still precocious in the sense of being full of clever-clever smugness, a weapon he chooses to use against those with much bigger character defects - the stupid, the lairy and the nasty. As a collective noun for these people, Kitson uses his favourite C-word profanity, a word he jokingly chides himself for overusing during the show.
On the sharp end of this profanity tonight are lad-mags (he is particularly annoyed that his mugshot and a joke of his have appeared in Zoo magazine), nasty alcohol advertising where unkind behaviour is condoned (he justly uses WKD as his example) and exploitative shows such as The X Factor. ("'What did you do today, Daddy?' 'I shattered someone's dreams.'")
Going to see Kitson is the comedy version of going to see an indie band: it's about exorcising some angst, be it unrequited love or a general malaise from dealing with life's idiots. Meanwhile, both have their lighter, positive, poppy moments, celebrating the simple things in life.
Unknowingly, Kitson flavours my musical analogy by basing one of his routines on a Ben Folds gig he went to at Brixton Academy. Here, our music-loving, quick-witted hero witnesses all kind of antisocial behaviour: people talking through the band playing, people smoking and people going to the bar during the gig. ("At one point, I heard someone say: 'Are we all on vodka tonics?'")
From this liturgy of misdemeanours, for which Kitson hands out poetic Asbos, the bearded, bespectacled comic concludes that an audience's collective intelligence is inversely proportional to its number, citing the Crazy Frog chart hit as a good example of this.
Kitson was once accused of a "cocky viciousness" by a critic, but this is Kitson the humanist at work. He overeggs the pudding a bit with his tale of sportsmanship as observed at a London basketball game, where the work-in-progress punchline is the two coaches unselfconsciously shaking hands. With the first night being used to workshop the show, Kitson admits to the audience that he has taken some of the momentum away and is able to use self-conscious critique as anti-humour. He goes back to his trusty notebook and edits accordingly, adding a note next to where he has earlier proudly written down "beverage semiotics" to be added to his comedy catchphrases.
Tonight, Kitson's show runs for more than two and a half hours, which is a shame, as there's a great one-and-a-half hour show waiting to get out of it. The evening is very much a story with a beginning, a middle and an unsatisfactory end. While the first act pootled along nicely for 45 minutes, warmly framed by anecdotes involving Kitson's family, the second half took off with the aforementioned Asbo liturgy. The self-confessed dip afterwards would have been more than allowable had Kitson had something resembling a climax and not used the pitiful and hackneyed ploy of a question-and-answer session to drag things out, looking for the big finish.
Aware that there was a critic in the audience for his first night, Kitson suggested the reason he wanted to carry on was so that they missed the last train back to London. Despite his valiant attempt, I didn't miss it, but it would have been nice to have caught the earlier train and escaped a rather indulgent finale.
Touring to 26 February ( www.danielkitson.com)Reuse content