Liam Williams: Capitalism

Liam Williams’s latest show is hard to pin down. Self-deprecation is old news in comedy, but the kind of self-dissection he performs in Capitalism is different – The Guardian aptly describes Williams as ‘a non-musical Bo Burnham’. If at times he seems to slip into worn formulas, like lambasting capitalism’s soul-destroying effects, it’s only to turn around and mock himself for doing so.

Mental instability may be the perfect vehicle for comedy so mercurial.

He is also, slyly, mocking the audience. In one running gag his attempt to define something everyday, putatively for the audience’s benefit, degenerates into inaudible mumbling: this will seem like a joke at his own expense only before it dawns on you that you couldn’t do much better. ‘You’ve gotta contrive a message,’ he says, contriving to lambast stand-up itself. Jokes rebound unstably until it becomes clear that instability is the show’s only real constant.

And mental instability may be the perfect vehicle for comedy so mercurial. A Fight Club-like split personality forms the show’s backbone, allowing Williams to deliver a running criticism of his own routine. How much of this — like a flat segment which the comedian claims ‘won’t be in the show tomorrow’ — is scripted? Impossible to say, but strangely exhilarating: a relief from routines like well-oiled clockwork, from the sense that a show would run identically even in an empty room.

But an awareness of defects can’t always neutralise them, and if the show is brilliant in ambition, it may be precisely a little tightening it needs. Williams squeezes guffaws from the confusion risked by his two personas, but loses the crowd once or twice with his rapid-fire alternations. He recovers well, though, and Capitalism as a whole provided ample laughs. If he can take another leaf from Bo Burnham’s book and hone his performance a little, Liam Williams should have an exceptional show on his hands.

Reviews by Aron Penczu

C venues - C nova

Bazaar and Rummage

★★★
Laughing Horse @ The Free Sisters

Shaggers

★★
Heroes @ Bob & Miss Behave's Bookshop

IndieRound (Fool Members Club) with Bob Slayer & Tim Fitzhigham

★★★
theSpace @ Symposium Hall

The Unholy Trinity

C venues - C too

Story Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing

★★★★
theSpace @ Jury's Inn

The Sorrows of Young Werther

★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Less pathetic now, Williams follows his Best Newcomer nominated debut with a free show about money. Let Edinburgh tremble. He’s in Sheeps if you’re a fan of them, though his solo stuff is a bit different tonally. If you like television he’s done a few things for that: Russell Howard’s Good News, Comedy Central At The Comedy Store, something for Channel 4. And if you’re old, he’s been on BBC Radio 4, like, three times. ‘Beautifully crafted’ ***** (Metro). ‘A rather special stand-up’ (Telegraph).