John Hastings’ Edinburgh preview is nowhere near as unrelenting as the title suggests at first glance. Hastings is a good comedian and has a lovely patter with the audience but the hit-rate of his jokes is unsatisfyingly low. The flow of his show is strong and rarely becomes tangential but the pace is so slow jokes often take a longer time to unfold than is warranted.
That is not to say, however, that Hastings is not funny. At times he comes out with some surprising moments of originality - nothing to have you rolling in the aisles with laughter, but a few amusing anecdotes that might catch you off-guard.
Hastings’ stage persona is amiable and relaxed; he does not ostensibly try too hard but he manages to win the respect of the audience nevertheless. A few well-placed jibes at the audience destroy any tension between performer and spectator. Hastings’ must also be commended for managing to deal well with a small audience, a situation many other comedians suffer under.
However, his conversational style is insufficiently bolstered by the laughs the audience expect. His material resembles pub banter more than a fully-fledged stand-up set. This was my main criticism of the show and is one that I’m sure Hastings will be able to combat in future. He has a strong wit and the set would be better if it was pumped with more jokes in the same style. Sometimes the material wavers towards childish crudity which doesn’t translate so well to an audience, particularly during an anecdote about his possibly pregnant ex-girlfriend. It’s a shame to see a comedian full of potential choosing to make cheap jokes. With more work I suspect that we will be hearing more of John Hastings, but not just yet.