Beehavioural Problems: Something Something Autism

As comedian Stephen Catling ambles onto stage, clad in a novelty dog head, it's apparent that we're sitting in an absurdist comedy show. Catling fills the hour with a range of silly bits and characters that happen to be hosted by an autistic comic, who refers to his autism regularly, without really delving that deeply into his experiences with it. It's clear from the outset that this show is in completely the wrong timeslot as well, and would be ideally placed mid-afternoon, rather than straddling midnight. Though some people might want that vibe to end their evening.

A screwball comedy show with a variety of sketches and sillinesses to end your Fringe night

For a show that relies on audience participation, Catling places multiple barriers between himself and his crowd - initiating awkward and unnecessary interactions, then snapping uncomedically at their responses, calling one out for responding to a direct question, which was indiscernibly referred to as 'rhetorical'. He then struggles to get back on track, retracing the last 20-30 seconds of material to find his thread. This is exacerbated when one audience member arrives in the middle of the show, and Catling can't decide whether to engage with him or not. He tries but doesn't know how, and appears more frustrated with the latecomer for this than he was at the lack of punctuality.

For me, this is a negative, but for some, it could be interpreted as autistic tendencies which would justify their coming in the first place. On the point of autism, it is a running theme throughout the show, and he shares some interesting information on autism (especially the segment on Sia's movie Music), without providing the personal insights and experiences that other autism-based shows do, and are implied by the title.

This is still a decent comedy show, with some fun segments and props (except for the backfiring Nerf section in which all three guns were faulty, and a reimagining of Eye of the Tiger which suffered from woeful timekeeping). Audience members invited on stage will leave with positive memories of having done some random gameshow-type duties that none of their friends will have done before, including eating yoghurt with chopsticks.

If you're after a screwball comedy show with a variety of sketches and sillinesses to end your Fringe night (plus some autism-inspired anecdotes on the side), rather than a roll-in-the-aisles thrill ride or real insight into the depths that autism can impact a performer, then this one is still worth a punt.

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The Blurb

He who makes a bee-ast of himself gets rid of the pain of bee-ing a man. Stephen Catling brings you his new surrealist escapade, droning on about work as an autistic person and dealing with the struggles that this brings in a world that (despite what it claims) doesn't want people to "bee" themselves, while bumbling between other animal-based sketches. Finalist: Stand-Up for Cider 2023. Semi-finalist: South Coast Comedian of the Year and Chortle Student Comedy awards 2022. Shortlisted for the Luke Rollason Memorial Bursary 2023.

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