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Incidental Combobulations
Published on Wednesday, 05 May 2010

Matthew Highton is a surprising little gem. With his scuzzy, studenty, rock-starish looks, he lopes on stage in the cosy room above The Temple Bar, seeming so much like your average white male twenty-something stand-up. He starts a routine about being hung over – you think so far, so what? – and then, everything shifts.  For here be dragons – and by dragons I mean, a rather more surreal brand of stand up comedy.

A stranger in his house is revealed to be the magnificently moustachioed Tom Selleck, Japanese spider crabs steal his dreams and sell them to the Hollywood film industry ('What films have you done then?' 'Big Momma's House'), God is killed by being synched with a Macbook and good advice is given for anyone who ever finds themselves trapped in a mirror by a witch ('Don't be malevolent, why not be nice?'). The whole nutty ride wraps up with a general-knowledge quiz to decide the future of the universe, which neatly refers back to incidents from the show.

Even if his material wasn't good (it is), Highton ought to be commended for trying something out of the ordinary.  These are not your Michael McIntyre or Jimmy Carr comedy stylings; Highton's influences are more from the Steve Martin, Eddie Izzard and Ross Noble end of the scale.  Instead of telling us men are like dogs and women are like cats, he's too busy explaining how you evict Danny DeVito from your house.  (You'll have to go see him to find out – but it involves clogs.)

This style of comedy can be a challenge for a newbie – Highton has only been gigging for a little over a year – and it demands utter conviction.  There were times when he seemed overwhelmed by him own material and, rather than inviting us into his surreal world, he seemed to be regarding it with the same bemusement as some of the audience – unable to believe what he was saying himself.

But that's a small grumble – and those kinks will almost certainly drop out with experience.  With material this solid and inventive and a genuine desire to take the comedy road less travelled, Highton is a star on the rise.  Catch his free show this year.  I doubt he'll be this price again.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.