Mark Nelson: Older Than Jesus
Irreverent, vulgar and humane consideration of society’s taboos
This article is from 2015.
There’s nothing subtle about Mark Nelson’s approach. Paedophilia, necrophilia, bestiality, blasphemy, racism, sexism and religion all come in for an unflinching appraisal. Nelson takes each far past the line of decency, and way beyond the question of ‘can he really say that?’ and into a cathartic engagement with all those topics that exist uneasily in our world.
With such profane material, the baffling presence of two young teens in the audience only propels him to higher levels of vulgarity as he singles them out for abuse. But the juxtaposition between such virulence and his cheeky smile takes any potential nastiness out of the hour. That he repeatedly checks in with a woman in the front row who is feeling ill, promising her that she can leave at any time without censure, differentiates the performer from his material.
However, the level of invective Nelson begins with cannot be sustained and diminishes by the final anecdote. The retelling of Jesus’ life story – putatively the theme of this show – is deliciously twisted but drags a little. While many a comic chucks a badly aimed pot-shot at political correctness, it takes a skilled comedian to attempt a meaningful consideration of society’s taboos. This is irreverence done right.
Gilded Balloon, 622 6552, until 30 Aug, 9.15pm, £10–£12.50 (£7.50–£10).