As Chris Coltrane himself proclaims, it’s pretty clear from the title of his show whether or not you’re going to like it. Leftie as fuck and proud as hell about it, Coltrane spends the hour ridiculing global news stories over the last year, expounding the virtues of political correctness and generally setting the world to rights (but not the right wing).
His opening material about why his show is socialist is a strong start and he races through attacks on David Cameron, Donald Trump and other predictable targets of liberal vitriol, lacerating them with witty and incisive quips – although in the case of Trump, minimal input from the comedian is needed, to be honest. In fact, Coltrane repeatedly draws attention to the fact that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to satirise the news, since it’s already a caricature of itself.
His material is strong and maintains a good level of humour and energy throughout, despite an obvious cold which hampers his delivery but not the quality of his set. What does hamper it, unfortunately, is the simplistic and one-sided views he cloaks every comment in. Regardless of your politics, subjects such as Brexit and immigration are complex issues which deserve proper debate – as Coltrane’s fellow politicomic Jonathan Pie points out, calling the other side “Racist! Racist!” over and over again isn’t going to win any arguments.
Of course, it could be argued that such simplification of the facts is absolutely acceptable in the realm of comedy – if Coltrane hadn’t made such a big deal out of harpooning his counterparts who bend the truth in their own sets. Indeed, he sets aside a good portion of the show to critique comedians such as Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld, who have earned millions from propagating falsehoods for comic effect. It jars somewhat, then, when Coltrane himself admits to not fact-checking a stat about Gary Barlow’s tax evasion (even more so when a five-second Google search reveals his assertions to be completely unfounded).
For an hour of entertainment at the Free Fringe, Coltrane will undoubtedly amuse left-leaning members of society. However, a man who takes such a hard-line on his fellow comedians really shouldn’t be throwing stones when his own house appears to be constructed of Plexiglass, as well. The fact that this free show in the vaults of Banshee Labyrinth regularly runs out of allocated space shows that festival-goers are willing to forgive his hypocrisy, and so they probably should – it’s a good show. It’s just not quite as holier-than-thou as it’d like to be.