Konstantin Kisin is a man who has quite the story behind him. The Russian-British comedian had been relatively unknown prior to 2018 when a disagreement with a ‘behavioural agreement form’ at a British university propelled him into popular culture. The comic and podcaster found himself at the centre of a major international news story about free speech on university campuses which led to him sharing a sofa with Piers Morgan on morning television. It is this series of events and the subsequent debate around freedom of expression that forms the basis of Kisin’s show, Orwell That Ends Well.
Orwell That Ends Well is a show that is ‘about something’, that something being what Kisin sees as the threat posed to freedom of speech in modern society and why defending it is so important. But it is by no means a political rant. Rather, Kisin couches his views in funny, interesting anecdotes, insightful observations, and snappy comments that make the message accessible and compelling. Audiences could be forgiven for mistaking Kisin for a far more experienced comedian as his writing, style, and level of confidence are that of a comic that has been on the circuit for many more years than he has.
While it is undeniable that Orwell That Ends Well has a point behind it, with which audiences are free to agree or disagree, the extent to which it manages to do so in a persuasive way is down to both the technical skill that Kisin has and also to his personality. He comes across as a warm and sincere man who delights in providing both laughs and chin-scratchers for his audience. Where some individuals involved in similar conversations are irritating to the point of being a turn-off, Kisin retains an optimism and positivity that makes his show work.
The discussion around free speech often veers off into toxicity, animosity, and nastiness. All too often, as Kisin highlights in the video package preceding his act, groups of individuals yell past one another into oblivion. However, with this enjoyable, provocative, and whip-smart entry into the debate, Kisin demonstrates how it can be useful to us all – by treating others with respect, maintaining a sense of humour, and grounding arguments in reality and empathy. Not everyone will agree with Orwell That Ends Well but is hard to imagine that anyone with an interest in the subject will not have at least something to gain from seeing it.