Peter White made a controversial decision to write a stand-up show about the problems faced by straight, white men, and it’s unclear whether this is quite brave or a terrible misjudgement of your average Fringe audience. Parts of the show do veer dangerously towards the offensive, but on the whole White dishes out fairly safe, middlebrow humour.
Though it’s very easy to be hostile to any show called Straight White Male from the off, White does actually have a few valid points to make.
White is not what you’d call a ‘meninist’, and a lot of his material came from the kind of lightly left-wing slant that’s pretty much the house style of Fringe comedy. He gives short shrift to homophobes and the ‘not all men’ brigade in jokes that are quite amusing but not mind-blowingly funny, but his section on race was a little misjudged. His embarrassing anecdote about how him and his friends laughed at a Chinese taxi driver because of his accent tried to make the serious point of the need to talk to kids about race (this was the first time White had heard a foreign accent), but came across as the kind of laddish humour which is precisely the reason straight, white men have an appalling reputation. There were also some sexist assumptions smuggled into a few lazy one-liners, implying that most women don’t care about sex and are constantly horrible to each other.
The second half of the show focused on White’s experience of an abusive relationship, and the stigmas faced by men when they try to look for help. This is definitely an issue that should be talked about more, and it was brave of White to talk about this very personal experience when there is still a huge stigma attached to male victims of domestic abuse.
The trouble was that with such a divisive topic amongst primarily left-wing Fringe-goers, White had to be adept at winning a crowd over and in this respect he utterly failed. His stage presence was charmingly gawkish and he was definitely likeable, but often couldn’t win the crowd over to his point of view. He then didn’t help himself by constantly referring to how badly the show was going, and eventually complained that his jokes weren’t going down well because the audience consisted primarily of “twelve angry women.” This, understandably, didn’t win him many friends.
The show didn’t go half as badly as White seemed to think it did, but the humour was definitely more amusing than laugh-out-loud funny. Though it’s very easy to be hostile to any show called Straight White Male from the off, White does actually have a few valid points to make. Saying this, you should still expect to be slightly offended if you hold strong left-wing views.