Edward Aczel is the master of anti-comedy. Self-proclaimed as ‘flaky, awkward and unprepared’ he makes us laugh before his set has even started as props fall off the stage and he clambers to keep everything together. Aczel’s introductory video then shows him attempting to focus on the fragility of a dandelion before throwing it away and plodding through a set which is devoid of witty punch lines but full of somehow hilarious anti-jokes.
Aczel begins by claiming that retelling three different historical facts is a great way to start a show if you want to appeal to everyone. It is not, but his deadpan delivery is still amusing, as is his supposedly short but actually excessively long statement apologising for misleading the audience with incorrect facts about Stalin’s rise. Discussing the meaning of life and different kinds of people, such as heavy metal fans and church-goers as ‘those who have stopped thinking’, it appears that Aczel is half-heartedly trying to say something profound, but then giving up early in order to gain laughs. Stumbling through a pack of crinkled papers with yet more anti-jokes is all part of the act, though at times he does appear genuinely nervous. The audience seem to feel awkward for the entire show, despite Aczel remaining refreshingly funny, notably stating that ‘I’m not really a comedy fan’.
Not all of Aczel’s dry humour goes down as successfully, and his ‘Eulogy to the opposite sex’ which includes wishing women in his office would ‘stop talking and start shopping’ simply isn’t witty. He did state before the joke that he might need to apologise afterwards and a lack of laughter signifies that most of the audience agreed. This aside, Aczel is still very successful because of how well he works with members of the audience. Slightly mocking them and eventually making them say whatever he wants, he is lucky to have such willing volunteers, who entertain us with their own awkwardness on stage for an admirable amount of time. Strange, intermittent video clips of Aczel singing along to ‘You’re the best thing that ever happened to me’ also add to this very unique act and he also manages to win over the audience with the beginning of his political section: ‘I don’t have any political views … but let’s just try and get through this together’.
After an hour of awkwardness and hesitancy, Aczel finally thanks the audience having considered whether it would have been more interesting to have a chat about plate tectonics for an hour. Truthfully, I think that Aczel could manage to make most topics very comical for a great amount of time. His delivery is spot on, and for some reason his terrible stage presence just works.