Craig Campbell is one of the most natural and kind hearted comics on the circuit. He walks onstage looking like a wild mountain man with the elastic face of Jim Carrey. He wears shorts to emphasise his rugged demeanour and imposing height. He could be terrifying. But then he speaks and laughter erupts, first in pockets and then in waves.
His innocence in the face of the world will be enough to put a smile on your face, even before he starts telling jokes.
Early on Campbell proves himself adept at the basics. The opening audience interaction that inevitably revolves around the ‘so where are we all from?’ format is handled with unusual originality. With the room quickly warmed up it soon became impossible to tell when Campbell was riffing off an audience member’s comment and when he was doing his own prepared material, so incredibly smooth was the transition. The effect was to make the set so unforced, so top of the head and tip of the tongue, that he instantly won the audience’s trust and good favour.
Also incredible are Campbell’s masterful virtues as a story teller. The two extended stories that make up the bulk of the show are about two real life near disasters, where fortunately no one was killed but only through sheer dumb luck. He fleshes out the characters, the decisions made and all the lovely details about what people said and how they kept their cool. He is fascinated by danger but also human triumph. Like a wide-eyed puppy his optimism is infectious. For instance, Campbell keeps insisting that he doesn’t like the word ‘miraculous’ and keeps apologising for using it, but then he can’t help himself from using it again and again. His innocence in the face of the world will be enough to put a smile on your face, even before he starts telling jokes.
It is hard at times to escape the feeling that Campbell relies too much upon the cadence of his delivery and the flexibility of his face to get laughs. One would play over one of his jokes that had just been received warmly and think ‘Hang on, there’s nothing inherently funny about that.’ It is obviously ambiguous whether we should applaud or condemn this quality in Campbell. The harshest thing one could say about it is that it means his delivery is better than his content, that his personality is more important than his material.
But this is quibbling. Campbell provides an exquisite hour of well honed, quite inspiring comedy.