Henry Ginsberg: Molesting the Corpse of Traditional Masculinity Since 1987

Henry Ginsberg spent most of his adult life envious of his male friends scoring on the weekend. Now bordering 30, he misses his virginity. He is the lord of all that is self-deprecating and lends a face to the forgotten depths of Reddit’s forever-alone forum. But these are insecurities which play into his overall strategy. This is an awkwardly entertaining well to draw from, one that puts the audience at ease with Ginsberg’s relatable and likeable charisma. But does it stand to gratify in the long term? Yes and no. Many times our host shows the potential for more, but never enough to completely satisfy the audience.

Not a jaunty stroll down the home stretch but a desperate marathon collapse over the finish line.

The comic starts off exceptionally, but on the night of this performance a couple of wobbles bucked him off course and found him scrambling to recover. When jokes missed their targets it noticeably shook him and slew his growing momentum thereafter. From there, the trajectory spiralled downwards and out of control.

After twenty minutes, the lonely neurotic/chronic masturbator act gets a little old, and looking at patterns from previous reviews it would seem that Ginsberg hasn’t evolved much over the last two years as a comedian. Still, it is often not his material but his delivery which lets him down. The quips about James Bond and Nero were well received, as was his curt retort to criticism from Katie Hopkins. But when you have to laugh your own jokes to get them off to a start it’s generally not a good sign. Ginsberg could be something remarkable if he only condensed his jokes down and developed better stage presence.

Admittedly Ginsberg doesn’t get nor wish to understand lad banter, but he seems happy to satirise it, which is something he has a great talent for. Yet much of his material is inherently laddish without deliberately invoking irony. In this respect, the title is very misleading. One moment finally shines a light upon this mismanaged project when Ginsberg confesses that his opposition to patriarchy is largely wrought out of self-interest in the hope that somebody will date him, not from subscriptions to Everyday Feminism.

What are we to make of this? Simply that the show is not a molestation of ‘the corpse of traditional masculinity’ but a Machiavellian quasi-political-comedy amalgamation with a scattershot message on women’s rights. Halfway in and feminists don’t forgive him for his anecdotes about trying to hit on women in nightclubs, and it is here that everything unravels. The show begins to pool awkwardly with silences broken only by the anxious laughter of our host. Floundering and sweaty, Ginsberg retreats into castigating misogynistic YouTube comments, but it is too late: the damage is done.

The third quarter is mostly spent lamenting the failures of his previous stand up efforts with Ginsberg micro analysing the ins and outs, the whys and the hows, and extensively mulling the reasons why the blonde in the front row didn’t find him funny. Meanwhile the clock is ticking and the audience are wearying of his persecution complex: a vicious cycle seems to be emerging. Thus we lumber slowly and painfully toward a dreary finale. He makes it to the end, but it is not comfortable. Not a jaunty stroll down the home stretch but a desperate marathon collapse over the finish line.

Ginsberg needs a better environment to flourish in and advice from seasoned comics of the Fringe to help him – working with a comedy troupe or in a duo might do him wonders. But sadly the free late night slot combined with the second half’s dubious, lengthy monologues are incentive for show goers to slip away to the bar and never return. I have no doubts that when you see Henry Ginsberg later in the festival it will be to a much higher standard; perhaps I’ve been overly critical about his opening show. The audience didn’t deserve him at times, but what did he do to keep them? Unfortunately, I have to go on what I watched.

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The Blurb

Henry Ginsberg is not your typical everyman. He's an anxiety riddled, emotionally fragile, jaded romantic who decided to pursue a comedy career aged 18 instead of going to university, and who managed to remain a virgin well into his late 20s. He's probably not what you think of when you imagine a "real" man. In his new show, Ginsberg explores themes of aspiration, toxic masculinity and sexual shame, along with his ever present signature themes of social anxiety, identity, loneliness, childhood trauma and spunk.

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