John Kearns: Double Take and Fade Away
- Brian Donaldson
- 22 August 2019
Poetic hour of image-laden stand-up and unique observations
There can be very few stand-ups with a more poetic and elegant way with a phrase or image while looking quite so ridiculous as John Kearns. Still donning the tonsure wig and fake teeth that are just marginally too big for his mouth, he possesses a unique spot in Fringe history by being the only comic to have won the Best Newcomer and then main award in successive years. You'd think that with this level of prestigious success that Kearns would have outgrown the festival, but thankfully he's still content to roll into town and steal the show with his unique brand of downtrodden stand-up.
This get-up might suggest a character comic, but his frontage is simply the mask he dons to be able to get himself up on stage and talk about his own life. He hints at his pre-comedy employment as a Houses of Parliament tour guide, mentioning a room he wasn't allowed to enter ('because Gorbachev was in there'), while he overly obsesses about a quote from Nigella Lawson that he imagines to be cookery's version of Samuel Beckett-esque existentialism.
Kearns is wholly unapologetic for the use of 'awkward silences' across his hour ('I've won awards for them!') but at the end he does offer his sympathy to a front-row member who sat with nary a smile across her lips for the preceding 60 minutes. John Kearns is the archetypal 'not for everyone' act, but those who get it just can't get enough of his poetic ruminations whether it's on carbon monoxide alarms, a woodpecker's tongue or the artists who did their finest work with ceilings.
Monkey Barrel, until 24 Aug, 4.45pm, £9 in advance or donations at the venue.