Darren Harriott begins his show with a series of rapid-fire, exuberant jokes about growing up black and working-class and his current life, from iron-on logos to dealing with his crackhead flatmate. However, whilst this would be enough for many other comedians, Harriott instead uses these topics as a springboard to comment on a greater range of subjects.
He uses the Power Rangers TV series to comment on cultural appropriation and the need to be ‘woke’ – a term he admits to having problems understanding and also pokes fun at the concept of cultural appropriation, which has the mixed-age audience all laughing equally as loud. This also branches off into anecdotes riffing on racism and the #MeToo movement in the form of an audience member in Norwich licking his skin to see if his blackness comes off, and the moment he was groped by a drunk middle-aged woman when he worked as a nightclub bouncer.
However, it is when Harriott starts talking about his involvement with a gang that he really gets into his stride. He intersperses his serious recollections of how his initial friendship with the other members developed into something more serious when he started carrying a knife and then was eventually stabbed by his friends on New Year’s Eve, with darkly humorous punchlines and observations that manages to walk the line between comedy and pathos whilst also emphasising the ease in which people can get sucked into the gang lifestyle.
Harriott believes that it was the shared absence of fathers (his own father committed suicide in prison when he was eleven) that resulted in the gang being formed, which leads into a poignant final story that not only eloquently conveys Harriott’s love for his father but also his amazement at how far he has come in his life.
Visceral not only showcases Harriott’s skills as a comedian, but also allows him to demonstrate his ability to switch from joking to making serious points about his upbringing as well as issues of race in general.