Mitch Benn: Don't Believe a Word

In Mitch Benn: Don't Believe a Word, the musical satirist attempts to explain why we should all put our faith in science over religion and superstition. He admits that he’s no academic, but proceeds to discuss genetics, cosmology, theology, evolution and the rest, in what I think is meant to be layman’s terms. Unfortunately, Benn is not able to sufficiently explain and expand on these occasionally complex ideas. He clearly understands it, but he’s no teacher and he delivers the material, sometimes from notes, at breakneck speed. If I weren’t a devourer of Dawkins’ books, I may have found myself unable to keep up. In a section where he uses a whiteboard to try and help illustrate a point, like much of the audience, I couldn’t see what he was doing.

There are one or two beautifully constructed highlights, but much of the time the final punchlines seem to be a shouty bit about how anyone who believes in that sort of thing is just plain wrong.

When it comes to musical comedy, Benn is one of the best there is. Fans of The Now Show enjoy his catchy satirical tunes every Friday. However, this is the first time I’ve heard him deliver musical material that felt below par. There was one memorable and very funny tune about being able to do what you like with your bottom, but I honestly can’t recall any other original songs, just those I’d already heard on the radio. Nor are there enough quality jokes in the set. There are one or two beautifully constructed highlights, but much of the time the final punchlines seem to be a shouty bit about how anyone who believes in that sort of thing is just plain wrong.

Having seen the show very early in its run, I feel that it wasn’t quite ready. With jokes, songs and science competing for space it lacked coherence. It felt thrown together rather than constructed, with too much material and not enough laughs. To be fair, the Fringe is supposed to be a place to develop raw ideas, so perhaps by the end of the run a more robust narrative might emerge.

Benn’s brilliant Twitter feed is replete with attempts to provide real insight to the superstitious that cross his path. If he comes up with an hour as enlightening and entertaining as his tweets then it really would be a show. My views of religion versus science mirror Benn’s closely, but as I left Don't Believe a Word I found myself miss-quoting Stewart Lee to a friend, “I didn’t find it very funny, but I agreed the fuck out of it.”

And that just isn’t enough.

Reviews by Martin Walker

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

I'm Mitch Benn and I'm a sceptic. But don't take my word for it. Or indeed anybody's. For anything. Join me for some post lunch pragmatism, daytime doubt and afternoon agnosticism as I debunk myths, expose nonsense, undermine woo and slaughter sacred cows*, while examining the very nature of knowledge itself and extolling the virtues of the evidence-based approach to life. With hilarious consequences (and a few tunes - it is me after all). It'll be terrific. Believe me (wink). *Disclaimer: no actual cows will be harmed during this show. Not on purpose anyway.