Marlon Davis: Emotional Black Male (4 stars)

This article is from 2019

Marlon Davis: Emotional Black Male

Comedy and pathos meet up in a heart-breaking story of trauma

'Yes, this is my voice,' explains Marlon Davis of his high-pitched timbre, an idiosyncrasy that might otherwise be annoying but actually makes him all the more endearing. He strikes up a sparky repartee with the crowd, asking various members where they're from and clumsily trying to riff off the answers; again, his charm carries him through his warm-up before he settles down for the show.

Davis examines the notion of British reserve, nicely illustrating his points with stories of personal cowardice and self-deprecation. He does hilarious impressions of his more confident young son and details the seemingly inevitable break-up of a long-term relationship. Throughout this first half of Emotional Black Male the mood is upbeat and unrelentingly positive, with the lion's share of observations and punchlines landing firmly. And then a sudden shift in tone skews the show into much darker territory.

What proceeds is a captivating tale of personal tragedy which Davis navigates with consummate skill. The story veers from broad humour to intense trauma and back again, but in his hands the transitions feel remarkably smooth. To control the ebb and flow of such tricky material is mightily impressive, not least since the whole episode still seems to be so raw to him.

Tonight, a group of audience members on the front row of this intimate show offer him no courtesy by constantly leaving and returning to their seats. That one of them should do so at the crux of his most heart-rending passage is unforgivable. But Davis shows incredible restraint, making light of a potentially tense situation and turning it into something even funnier. This is a cracking hour of comedy and pathos, and a very rare one which manages to mix the two for greater effect.

Underbelly Bristo Square, until 25 Aug, 6.50pm, £10–£11 (£9–£10).

Marlon Davis: Emotional Black Male

  • 4 stars

Brand new stand-up hour from the comedian, as seen on Live at the Apollo.