Alistair Williams: I've Started So I'm Finished

Alistair Williams is a bit of a lad. Among what appears to be a generation of young male stand-ups struggling to work out what it means to be a modern man in the 21st century, his pre-show music is the unashamed 1980s hokum of Guns ’n’ Roses and Welcome to the Jungle. Early on, it’s also clear that Williams isn’t afraid to repeat the misogynistic language of rap performers – until he twists and suggests that such vocabulary might be why women don’t like them. It’s a courageous example of attempting to have your comedic cake and still eat it, but not an approach guaranteed to quickly endear a female-filled audience to like him. He’s lucky, though, if only genetically; lean limbs, smooth tanned skin, luxuriant hair, and a brilliant smile – Williams is the comedy circuit’s answer to Tom Hiddleston.

Often funny, but he could be so much more.

Williams comedy style has been described as “the ramblings of a moron”. Certainly, there’s no obvious structure here; his set is a game of joke tag as he moves from one subject to the next, often with only the most tenuous of connections. Living with drugged-up Australians in Croydon, the hidden flight costs charged by EasyJet, the problems he has with job interviews, and attempting to find a genuine career use for his history degree – to be honest, there’s nothing particularly outstanding or different to see here.

Williams delivers his jokes at a steady pace; and if the show runs quicker than expected, he continues into his “extra material” to ensure he professionally fills his allocated time on stage. Some of his observations are amusing; a few are really funny. Alas, he doesn’t yet have enough of the latter to totally distract us from the less successful material. “Usually that jokes does better” might be a genuinely self-effacing throw-away line, but does he really want that to get a bigger laugh than his (presumably) long-worked-on joke? (Arguably, he should; the sense of truth and reality in that single comment was noticeable.)

Occasionally, there are flashes of genuine brilliance here – not least when he explains how the ongoing Middle East crisis unexpectedly became the subject of discussion in the Bookies’ shop where he previously worked. Yes, Williams does occasionally dip his toe into more political areas, but he never dives in, and there’s seldom a sufficiently satisfactory pay-off in many of his observations to act as a genuinely dramatic punchline.

Williams clearly has it in him to go far in comedy, but, at the moment seems reluctant to fully commit himself; there’s always the sense of some distance between himself as performer and us as his audience. The most successful stand-ups are the people we know – or at least think we know. At the moment, Williams is just a pretty boy who still seems to be playing at being a stand-up rather than being one: yes, he’s often funny, but he could be so much more.

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

Multiple Venues

Nests

★★★
Dundee Rep Theatre / Macrobert Arts Centre

The Yellow on the Broom

★★★
Underbelly, Bristo Square

Tom Neenan: It's Always Infinity

★★★★
Assembly George Square Studios

Police Cops in Space

★★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Rik Carranza: Still a Fan

★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Marmite

★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Piccadilly Comedy Club New Comedian of the Year winner Alistair Williams brings his highly anticipated debut show to Edinburgh. He’s finally doing what he loves for a living. Join him as he says goodbye to everything in life he thought he couldn’t live without… Alistair has been a finalist in Amused Moose, Leicester Square and Laughing Horse New Act competitions. Described as a must-see comedian for those looking for straight out laughs. Come and see the show people are already talking about as 'at 20:00’ and ‘on sale’. 'Rough diamond charm' (Chortle.co.uk).