As part of Glasgow International Comedy Festival 2018
Opening with his own spoof titles and film logo, Chris Thorburn’s “silly show about films” rejects the notion it’s a serious look at the topic as he mocks it being a lecture on cinema. The references come thick and fast as the joys of the medium and many of the clichéd elements we take for granted are outlined, with a compilation of clips and still images showing us everything from David Lynch to “the world of monsters” via Harvey Weinstein. “You knew this was going to be niche” he deadpans and he’s not wrong. Niche it may be, but incomprehensible it never is.
The visuals help to ensure this. Peppered throughout with clips (some even doctored to give the perfect happy ending) and his own “Cineman” logo in the style of iconic films such as The Matrix, Blade Runner, Jurassic Park et al the use of visuals enhances rather than detracts from the comedy on display. It all looks and sounds slick.
However, even better is the impeccable structure of the stand-up on display. A look at (sadly fictitious) forthcoming attractions such as “Terminator: Convolution” – complete with mock-up art posters – are genuinely hilarious. It may not be a lecture, but we do get a show looking very perceptively at elements such as genre, title, tropes, the clichéd perfect ending and films claiming to have social elements. There’s even a brilliant little song about the Bechdel test, which concludes Mean Girls is the only film to pass it. Thorburn’s knowledge, enthusiasm and love for the topic is evident as he gently pokes fun at kids films such as Cars and chastises JK Rowling for “doing nothing but saying she did something” over topics such as including LGBTQ characters.
But it’s the personal moments that make this show soar. Explaining his background in Film Studies as being like “Emo: The Movie”, Thorburn’s use of old photos of himself with little commentary are a delight. He uncomfortably looks at his past liking for Woody Allen, feeling he failed to see what was in “hidden in plain sight” in his movies. There’s a reflective side to this comedy that looks to the future as well as the past: his upcoming wedding is discussed, in a manner he claims is “self-indulgent” in a show ostensibly about cinema. He need have no fear of this and might even like to drop in a few more anecdotes in future.
Whilst some of the lip-synching and mock dancing routines outstay their welcome (they feel strangely amateur amongst the intelligent jokes), these are minor quibbles for a show that is slick, perceptive and witty. Closing with his own spoof version of Maroon 5 to the tune of There Will Be Blood, Thorburn even gives himself his own perfect ending, complete with jokey outtakes. He’s certainly earned it, as attested by the audience applause.