A complex set of ideas and intellectual jousting which aims to elevate the form
After a remarkably assured and inventive debut solo sketch hour last year, Douglas Walker has consolidated rather than edged forward with Komischer. Set up as a high-minded commentary of the stand-up form and nature of gags, his collection of routines are designed to pose a single question (is it the context in which a joke is delivered that makes it funny?) rather than construct a platform of diversity from which he showcased sketches that were both light and dark.
Here, Walker's wearing of Pierrot-like face paint suggests something vintage: the joke is both the preserve of 'the clown' but also perhaps in danger of becoming an ancient artefact. There might be an annual competition for the best gag at the Fringe, but jokes are at a premium across a festival where the telling of shaggy dog stories or laying out a programme of personal trauma has been elevated.
There were hints in last year's Möglich, but this time around it's harder to bat away the nagging feeling that Stewart Lee haunts Walker's work. The yoghurt motif's steady recurrence might make some observers think of Lee's 'crisps' segment. And his shadow looms large in the show's finest section when the point of context is pushed home even harder. A particular Louis CK routine is performed from three perspectives: that of the audience member who uses it at a previous show as an elaborate heckle (OK, that probably never happened, but it's just there to make a point); Walker's own interpretation; and, of course, the original bit by CK which, even if you've never heard it, you can still hear his voice as Walker relays it.
Few comics at the Fringe are attempting the kind of intellectual theatrics that Walker attempts to pull off here and he should be heartily congratulated for those efforts. Ultimately, he may have tried to jam almost too much in with his core ideas getting a little mangled up. Or maybe that's the whole point. Either way, what he has for us next should be an exciting prospect.
Just the Tonic at the Mash House, until 28 Aug, 5pm, £5–£7 or Pay What You Want.