Leo Kearse isn't, by his own admission, a 'woke' comedian. (Apparently he's got a lot of toxic masculinity – though he surely gains some brownie points for at least checking.) What he doesn't have, at least initially at this particular performance, is a spotlight; which is slightly ironic given he has this year made the 'leap' from one of Edinburgh's free fringes to a basement space run by one of the 'Big Five', 'Fringe-proper' promoters.
It's when Kearse finally steps into the minefield of gender politics that things begin to get genuinely interesting.
It's a step up none-the-less, career-wise, although I do think Kearse can't be doing too badly, given the many riffs based on what happened in sunny, far-away holiday destinations. In most cases, the target of his humour is himself, though his self-depreciation clearly hasn’t been enough to avoid being (for example) thrown out of a hotel, or banned from his own venue while working in Perth, Australia. The irony in anyone that being told to leave an 'inclusive space' is not lost on him: nowadays liberals, he suggests, believe in everything except diversity of opinion.
Kearse self-identifies (to use the popular vernacular) as a right-wing comedian, as someone who believes in small government and low taxation. While much of his early material focuses around being the son of hippy, liberal English parents who (bizarrely) settled in the west of Scotland, there's a sense here of trying to placate an audience who are not as hostile to him as he might fear. It's when he finally steps into the minefield of gender politics, and political correctness in the #MeToo era that things begin to get genuinely interesting. Even if he too easily plays 'troll'.
A joke, Kearse points out at one point, is an awkward truth, and the best comedians – like the best journalists – are focused on holding power to account, whether that 'power' comes shaped as politicians, dictators or supposed social liberals who nevertheless sound like Mary Whitehouse. Kearse is definitely among the former, although perhaps his real challenge at the moment is that he's nowhere near as reactionary as some of his critics want him to be.