Ed Aczel: The Random Flapping of a Butterfly's Wings

As Ed and his technician struggle to make his opening video work, the audiences tries to work out whether this shambling, technologically doomed opening is part of the show. Ultimately, it's almost impossible to tell. When faced with an act as convincing as Aczel, it is difficult to ascertain where his rambling, ageing-hippie-meets-weary-headteacher faux-tedium ends, and the genuine mistakes start – but that is the brilliance of it.

There is no better antidote to the slickness and polished perfection of mainstream performance.

The alleged concept behind Aczel's show is that of chaos theory – the idea that the tiny movement of a butterfly's wings could affect whole weather systems. Similarly, Aczel is adamant that he is affecting the future of the world simply by performing his show, but in true anti-comic style, it takes at least half of the run-time before the show proper begins. Much of the beginning half-hour is taken up with admin, often involving piles of hastily scrawled notes and, best of all, the requisite amount of audience banter – a heady mix of confusion, unflinching politeness and weary sarcasm. Much like the rest of the show, his audience repartee is meandering and punchline-free, and it soon becomes clear who is laughing at him and who is laughing with him – but either way, they're still laughing.

The midway point brings with it another video, to 'keep up the energy'. Like the rest of the show, nothing much happens in the short filmed segments that pepper Aczel's stand-up, but there is a certain beauty to them – a fragility that pervades the whole performance and keeps the audience (largely) on his side. During the second half of the hour Aczel brings out the big guns: his diagrams, sketches and charts, all portrayed in glorious low definition by his vintage overhead projector.

It is always difficult to work out where the humour comes from in Ed Aczel's shows, whether it is the material or the audience's confusion, but one thing's for sure – there is no better antidote to the slickness and polished perfection of mainstream performance.

Reviews by Ed Barnes

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The Blurb

Ed plans to expose the audience to plenty of ill-thought through approaches to comedy in the search for an idea which will improve human existence. He knows his own limitations so expects the audience to do the actual rocket science. His offer is to ‘facilitate’ the garden by which the ‘flower’ will ‘grow’. 'One of the strangest, and finest, hours of comedy I’d ever seen' (New Yorker). 'Perhaps Britain’s greatest living anti-comedian' (Guardian). Malcolm Hardee Award Winner. ***** (Time Out), **** (Times), **** (Herald).