As part of Glasgow International Comedy Festival 2018
Opening to a packed Yesbar, Stephen Buchanan immediately wins the crowd over by confessing that he (rather pointlessly, as it turned out) recorded the intro himself with a sheet over his head in an airing cupboard at home. Buchanan explains the show is a platform for him to “talk about my fears”, which include commitment, Goosebumps books and being stuck in unfulfilling jobs. Along the way he points out the differences between rap and stand-up, the trials of being a small man and how taking in a refugee is ideal for a comedian running out of material. From the outset this show is more personal in focus than some of the more overtly political offerings across the Glasgow International Comedy Festival 2018, but it’s perhaps all the more stronger for it.
Buchanan is expert at going off-topic for a while to interact with the audience. Indeed, he begins to weave a narrative around several of those he keeps talking to, congratulating one chap – “good wee call back from the front there” – as the show progresses. An especially enthusiastic punter is handled in a manner which is skilfully funny and refreshingly humble at the same time. There is nothing snide or unpleasant about Buchanan, who is able to go off on such tangents due to the fact he is creative and also so damn personable about it.
But make no mistake: underneath all of the hilarity is a laser-like focus on his structure. The pace never drops as a result, with proceedings moving forward in a logical, funny way. Rather than being chained to his material, it’s refreshing how Buchanan is confident enough to wander before getting the audience back on track. His humility plays a large part in this, but he doesn’t over-do it. “I was attacked once by asthma,” he deadpans, with digs at his height and not being prominent on Google search cropping up. He also becomes hilariously objective at times, commenting the “set is paedo-heavy tonight, only just realised”. It’s a very charming and winning mix.
But it’s not just jibes about Buchanan’s personal life; things are shot through with references to asylum seekers, drugs, crime, xenophobia and the nature of relationships. Concluding with the tale of making a neo-Nazi purchase a different type of curry sauce in the Co-op, Buchanan intones “it’s the small victories, guys”. With just a simple notebook to refer to at times, plus a little burst of Eminem on his phone, this show is a shining example of unadulterated stand-up. A small victory indeed.