Comedians that openly put their right wing political beliefs at the core of their act have been criticized at previous festivals for exploiting a niche, whilst letting the comedy element take a backseat. The infamous Andrew Lawrence, whose career path was explored in a Sky Arts documentary, seems to have turned 180 degrees on the idea, bringing an all clean show to the fringe this year. Leo Kearse returns to Edinburgh with Right Wing Comedian, presenting a show that’s not held back by its divisive subject matter.
Kearse cracks jokes on the back of your stereotypical Scottish Tory – how he’s thankful for Thatcher closing the coal mines in his town, why nobody likes poor or disabled people, and how coming out as right-wing parallels telling your parents that you’re gay. Repeating that back to yourself, you might consider it outrageous that he would sincerely say those things, but it’s not from a heart of hate – just a cynical one. Kearse plays up to his presumed intolerant views by putting on a character that is prime for satire. It’s indistinguishable how much of himself is represented on stage, but it’s enough to see that he isn’t a bad guy.
Very rarely do you find someone truly, naturally funny, especially when talking about such a dry subject such as their political stance. As the most recent winner of Scottish Comedian of the Year, Kearse has proven himself, perhaps not as the most naturally charismatic performer, but as a solid joke writer who can stretch out even the most uneven premises into laughter. The interesting part of his act is that if it wasn’t weighed down by the political element, he should definitely be able to present a versatile and genuinely funny show. His arguments against the finger pointing left and their loss of the usage of offensive humour is well justified – as the culture of outrage spreads so does hypocrisy. But it’s the political stuff that can occasionally bring the show to a screeching halt. Not because it’s partisan, but because it’s incredibly hard to present a fresh angle that’s also funny.
Political humour as an artform dates back to ancient Greece and can have a powerful effect on public opinion, but in late night monologues and stand-up routines it can come off as condescending and uninspired. Kearse puts on a posh English accent to mimic airheaded liberals against his coarse Scottish voice of reason, which is funny because in most cases you’d think it was the other way round. Cracks in the show start to form as he argues his case against their agenda, coming off nearly as sanctimonious as the people he’s calling out in the first place. Yet Leo Kearse is worth checking out because outside of the narrative of being a right wing stand-up, he is able to shine. The show is at its best when he’s being mercilessly cruel, inviting us to gawk at his agonising exploits booking travel or relieving himself in the designated streets of the Caribbean.