Nathaniel Metcalfe feels like a really witty mate who’s about to blow you away with his hilarity while you chomp away on a packet of crisps. He has a glimmer in his eye like he knows you and knows that he will really, really entertain you. Strangely, as this performance progresses, the audience becomes steadily more confused as they realise that they’re not actually laughing very much.
His method of delivery has so much promise but, after a lengthy introduction, Enthusiast doesn’t really ever get going. Metcalfe aims to lead his audience through tales of his past obsessions; the problem is that these obsessions are all minutely obscure. He has misjudged which cultural references will actually qualify as popular and be recognised. He spoke for a very long time about films and television programmes that the audience had not seen. His confident manner assures the us that he probably is saying something very witty and those watching want to believe that they just can’t find the proof, as it is to be found somewhere well above everyone’s heads. This is humour with so much depth that no one can see it.
Another issue is that Enthusiast ends up feeling more like story-telling than stand-up. The set is an account of various moments in his life when he was doing things like researching a particular film, or Neil Buchanan’s life history. This is wonderfully structured, but is not a performance of interwoven punch-lines. It ends up getting long-winded and his crowd get lost along the wayside of his side-tracks.
This being said, there were a few moments of comic genius. Metcalfe has a lot of potential; he just needs to pick more digestible subject matter for his spectators. Everybody leaves feeling that they really like him as a person – he has excellent stage presence – but I imagine not many people will like Enthusiast as a show.