Tickets for Dave Chawner: C’est La Vegan apparently went like hot cakes (or should that be like Greggs' vegan sausage rolls?) and as everyone packed into the bijou upstairs room of Sweet @ the Welly Chawner apologised if he needed to refer to his notes as he hadn’t performed this show for a while. It never seems to be a good sign when a comedian begins their set by apologising.
Some of his material was a little stale
As it turned out he didn’t really need his notes but you could tell that some of his material was a little stale. You don’t have to live in Brighton to have heard jokes about loud-mouthed meateaters moaning about preachy vegans a hundred times before by now and other set pieces about his Irish girlfriend didn’t really hit home. Quite often Chawner seemed to ramble on without ever really reaching a punch line worth the wait, and other times he wasted time by pondering on whether to make a spontaneous riff before deciding the crowd would be against it. Despite these slow moments, at times he touched on some genuinely interesting and under discussed topics, such as his parents being concerned how his new found veganism could impact his mental health due to his prior history of anorexia.
Hopefully there's more material in his other Brighton Fringe show Dave Chawner: Mental, which he managed to give a gratuitous plug (and it has now found its way into this review so... maybe advertising works?!). However, most of the hour was filled with very safe, middle-of-the-road humour. Sharp-witted puns peppered throughout kept the audience ticking along with soft laughter until halfway through the set his mic expired with a final quick crackle. Performing in such a small room Chawner continued regardless and suddenly approached the show with new vigour. Sans mic, his wild gesticulations made his impersonations a lot funnier (such as when he imitated his mum launching a tablecloth over a defrosting chicken) and the energy in the room lifted.
Surprisingly enough, the polemical end of the set was the most effective. Although not laugh-out-loud funny, it made up for it with heartfelt insight and still managed to pack in a few chuckles. Asked to play a game of ‘vegan or not’ we got to discover whether commonplace foods such as Wetherspoons chips are vegan and then dived into a thoughtful dissection of what being vegan truly means. Using his degree in Philosophy (!) he ended on a robust argument for imperfect veganism that was both rousing and uplifting.
We left the room with spirits a little lighter and a little more enlightened, but with the air of unfilled potential.