Note: This review is from the 2018 Fringe

Chris Betts didn’t have a noble goal in mind when he created the show Chris Betts vs the Audience. Although people have claimed since it debuted that it’s a good exercise in stepping outside of your comfort zone and challenging entrenched beliefs, Betts insists that he only created it because, in his words, “he’s an a**hole who likes arguing with people”. Which is fair enough.

The show’s premise is simple enough: the audience gives Betts a topic (this can range from the mundane to the controversial), and he then argues the opposite. There are, of course, a few caveats to ensure that the show doesn’t completely descend into chaos – the format includes a speed round where Betts debates one-on-one with a member of the audience, and a round where the audience can choose between conspiracy theories or “x shouldn’t be illegal”. This is an excellent setup, and ensures that debates don’t drag on for too long; the only round that doesn’t work as well as the others is the speed round, because members of the audience don’t have the same comedic flair as Betts. However, he riffs off people so naturally that this isn’t a big problem, and the laughs are pretty constant.

There’s also another comedian on the bus – Monday’s guest was Tim Renkow – who acts as the “judge”. Renkow often chipped in during the debates with some great one-liners (much to the delight of the audience), which added another layer of hilarity to the whole performance and showed that Betts is more than happy to share the spotlight, whether that be with strangers or old friends.

Of course, it very much depends on the audience Betts gets. If he ends up with a group of people for whom debating in public amongst strangers is their nightmare, it’s easy to imagine a toe-curling hour of awkward silences. But that’s basically out of his control, and there’s a certain amount of due diligence that Fringe-goers should put in – if the name of the show has vs the Audience in the name, that’s fair warning.

Chris Betts vs the Audience certainly wouldn’t work without Betts’ razor-sharp wit and ad-lib skills. You’d be surprised at how persuasive he can be, even when discussing the most taboo topics imaginable – just prepare yourself to laugh at some pretty morally corrupt stuff.