The undeniable intelligence of Eric Lampaert’s stand-up rarely stops him from indulging in silliness or, occasionally, outright weirdness. As a British-French-American, he has triple nationality, and it is consideration of this unusual combination that forms the backbone of Alien of Extraordinary Ability. This is an hour of comedy that has obviously been meticulously structured, and as a consequence there are very few weak moments.
The show opens with a pre-recorded video sketch in which the hapless Lampaert is interviewed by US government officials in advance of his marriage to his American partner. As well as providing the opportunity for wonderfully well-cast cameos from fellow comedians Joz Norris and Eleanor Morton as agents Mulder and Scully, this also allows Lampaert to explain the ‘alien’ part of his show title. Lampaert cleverly builds upon previous jokes, rapidly establishing several simultaneous themes, and deftly juggles his subject matter, returning to each one just long enough to keep the plate spinning before moving on.
Lampaert’s jokes and cadences sometimes feel a little too rehearsed, and as a consequence he himself occasionally seems detached from the story he’s telling. There’s no malice in this show, though, and his audience are trusted collaborators rather than targets. Lampaert is very aware of his own physicality, and while he doesn’t often play on it, he’s capable of some excellent physical clowning.
His finale is ridiculous, but all the more wonderful for it, and relies on a number of breadcrumbs that have been cleverly dropped throughout the show. Lampaert enjoys seemingly-unimportant throwaway jokes, sharing a knowing wink with those audience members who are quick off the mark.
A couple of cheap laughs at the expense of mental health stereotypes detract somewhat, but, like the best storytellers, Lampaert allows us to figure out where he’s leading us just moments before we arrive. It’s very satisfying – all the more so because of Lampaert’s obvious delight in its construction.