It’s hard to believe that Dave Chawner is playing in an attic at a Free Fringe venue so accomplished is his stand-up routine. His topic for the night isn’t even funny! He is one of many comics on the circuit choosing mental health as his comedy fodder of choice covering both anorexia (while trying to plug his new book, Weight Expectations) and anxiety as he encourages people to seek help should they require it.
Firstly, he dissects the language we use around mental health explaining that we all have mental health, it is mental illness which causes difficulties. But even that, Chawner explains, is all wrong as he asks why we insist on focussing on the negative instead of the positive? Why do we have such a clear idea that Physical Education is vital in schools but ‘Mental Education’ is a secondary thought?
Chawner is striving to improve this as part of a working group which includes members of parliament and a stint as a presenter on a documentary about body dysmorphia. Sounds like a barrel of laughs right? Well remarkably Dave Chawner does manage to make this a show littered with laughs commanding the microphone with confidence. He is clearly passionate about the topic he has chosen to base his show around and this sometimes causes mild cases of verbal diarrhoea which are hard to keep up with as the words tumble at increasing speed from his mouth.
However, as much as the point is to make the room laugh, his material is delivered with care and compassion for those potentially experiencing any mental illness while listening and he even gives the names of places to go should one require it. Travelling, meditation and breathing are not the only options available he muses, despite the advice he once gave out under pressure.
Making light of a serious situation is a fine art and one which Dave Chawner masters with some skill. And with no price tag attached to this show it is a fine art which all can, and should, hear.