Scottish born Stephen Carlin was once referred to by Stewart Lee as one of the world’s best ever comedians. In his latest show Post Rational Carlin is looking back at old material through a new, wiser pair of eyes. This means that Carlin sticks to material that feels notably dated and recycled, but makes up for it with the skilful delivery that he has become known for throughout his career.
Carlin is a very welcoming figure, taking smaller crowd numbers in his stride. If anything he does so a little too well. He seems distracted by heckles from the audience, leading him onto brief spiels that diverge from whatever he had been saying previously. They are never angry reactions – Carlin’s jokes are just about good enough to avoid them – but they nonetheless slow the show down. His reactions though can be worth a laugh, reacting to audience jibes and strange coincidences with aplomb. The crowd will likely just want him to get on with the show, but they won’t be complaining too loudly through their laughter.
The show’s main let down is some of the material. Jokes about sex education, heroin and obesity (among other things) feel like they are about ten years too late. If this is his old material returning, it’s not really the victory lap that some might have in mind. What has lasted well down the years however is Carlin’s comic ability. The subject matters may feel old, but they are told through some ingenious writing. Even if you’re not laughing, you will appreciate the intelligence of his wordplay and delivery.
Not all of his jokes get laughs. Indeed some barely register as jokes at all. Carlin is always quick to save himself from the silence, the sign of an experienced comedian doing what he knows. Post Rational Carlin is inconsistent and not without problems. On the flip side, it is also a chance to see a well-weathered comedian cutting his losses on the Free Fringe, which with a writing and delivery style like Carlin’s is sure to make it worth the time for many.