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David Callaghan: Dead Man’s Chest

at McPhabbs

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Muddled stand-up lost to technology

Image of David Callaghan: Dead Man’s Chest

As part of Glasgow International Comedy Festival 2018

David Callaghan isn’t really David Callaghan (You know? The one who “looks like a fat Russell Howard?”) Due to a technicality (explained by a video clip) our host for the evening is actually a director with the same name, who was responsible for directing an episode of Taggart in 1996. Linked due to the wonders of technology to other audiences around the world for tonight’s show, ‘Callaghan’ begins to recount his career and examine aspects of his 1996 magnum opus. Or he would if it wasn’t for interruptions from a pesky alt-right hacker and cameos from a U-boat captain.

From the off, the premise doesn’t really engage. If somebody just wants to show clips from an episode of Taggart and comment on them, there must be a less convoluted way than this. When other ‘actors’ from the show are given a segment of interview video clips (twice) investment in the concept is stretched to breaking point. There is a vague structure to all of this, as ‘Callaghan’ examines aspects of the show such as location and costume.

The muddled structure of an already tenuous premise isn’t helped by yet more nonsensical shenanigans courtesy of a U-boat captain obsessed with members of U2 performing sexual acts on each other. Why? It seems to be inspired by a pun on (fictitious) title of said U-boat. There is no real point or punchline to any of this and it feels especially intrusive.

The focus and structure goes further out the window when the show is ‘hacked’ by Dizzy 21, a lisping, dorky white supremacist. Using their phones via a wi-fi setup installed for the show, the audience have to compose a threatening letter using a set of predetermined phrases. This is actually a novel little gimmick, allowing for plenty of topical Brexit references and truly OTT humour. With Dizzy 21 ‘talking’ to our host and interacting with the audience this feels fresh and  Indeed, it’s such a fun segment that the return to examining the next chapter of ‘Callaghan’s’ saga feels bathetic.

A final hack has the audience threatened with a bomb and having to again wield their mobile phones to navigate around a house where this is located. Bizarrely, wrong steps lead to random comedy sketches as time-wasting punishments as the (already over-long) countdown at 5.5 minutes ticks down to oblivion. Callaghan gamely tries to keep the momentum of this going but the clunky directional choices and seemingly rule-free nature of the segment is a turn off. We all died tonight and I don’t think any of the audience really cared.

This is a game attempt to fuse stand-up with an engaging narrative using technology. It’s a pity it doesn’t quite work. There is perhaps an over-reliance on clips and stills, with focus going from our main man to looking at the screen for the bulk of the duration. In this sense it feels more like a slideshow as the technology begins to dominate. There may be a ton of imagination on display here but it could do with some editing to maintain focus and up the laughs which are regrettably few and far between.


After studying English and Film & Media at Uni, Peter eventually moved to Glasgow so he could be nearer the GFT. He will do anything if Doctor Who and tea is involved.

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