Nick Hodder: Insert Comedy Here!

The Camden Fringe is home to many different types of performer; opera singers, musicians, burlesque dancers and poets. I have to admit though that I never expected to see a piece of performance art like this.

I say performance art because, whatever this is, it isn't comedy. And the terrible thing is that it feels like it could all have been avoided with a little thought.

The conceit of the show has Hodder playing a clueless, more-than-a-little pathetic nerd attempting to conduct his first gig with aid of a teach-yourself-comedy CD. And I'm sure in Nick's head this seemed like a wonderful opportunity to subvert the conventions of comedy. The reality of it is a man, apologising to a recording of himself for an hour. And it's simply not funny.

The reason it all goes so wrong is very simple - Hodder doesn't appear to have written any material. There's no attempt to play with the audio-guide structure, no attempt to show what happens if you follow the rules of stand-up literally, without any common sense. This is character comedy without a character - not even phoned in, just left as a recorded message.

There is, admittedly a place, for anti- comedy of this sort but make no mistake, it takes more preparation and audience rapport than any conventional set. And, in order to mock the rules, it has to follow them. 

Those comedians, such as Stewart Lee, who can make the genre work for them have spent years polishing and refining. Without that level of craft you get 'Insert Comedy Here'; not ironic, just disappointing.

All this is a shame because Hodder does show some natural talent as a comedian. His in-character banter with the audience before the show was quick and his analysis of comedy is accurate. However, he doesn't make much of this skill. It's not enough to simply point out the cliche that women love shopping - you have to make a joke of it. Even Keith Chegwin would try to do that.

'Insert Comedy Here' is an interesting concept badly executed. It sets itself up to make a point but then never quite gets there becoming, ultimately, a waste of our time and the performer's. You're a comedian Nick. Next time, tell some jokes.

Reviews by Tom King

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