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Alexis Dubus: A R*ddy Brief History Of Swearing
Published on Monday, 31 August 2009

We all love to swear, there's no denying it. As an expression of passion, anger or vehemence, there is nothing better - but I'm supposed to keep this review "clean", otherwise I'd be both cursing and passionately supporting Alexis Dubus in equal measure. While it's great subject matter, and Dubus' style and performance are appealing, the material is very hit-and-miss; Dubus is delightfully friendly and cheeky, but the show is a little sloppy, and could do with trimming and reworking.

With the current furore over "offensive" comedy, it couldn't be more fortuitous that Dubus' show touches on one of the main areas involved in the debate - the language comedians use. There is no denying the comedian's propensity to swear: some words are just funny in their own right, and their ability to inspire instinctive like or dislike instantaneously make them a valuable tool in the stand-up's arsenal. But instead of using the show to explore these issues, Dubus offers us a slightly silly lecture on swearing - covering all of the obvious bases of foreign languages, the origin of swear words, and so on. There could have been a slightly more topical edge, and there should have been more edge generally.

Dubus seems to attract a crowd to this show that he isn't expecting. He wants to discuss the mechanics of swearing and language, while the audience are expecting an entirely different type of show. During the show I saw, a rather loud Scottish gentleman could not be contained, Dubus frequently trying to caution him until tech support had to come over and ask the man to be quiet.

Dubus' main problem is his on-stage persona. His silly, school-boy personality lends itself to a mock lecture, but the material was wrong for this. This show quickly became a young man lecturing on swearing, with Dubus spending too long with dictionaries in hand and gesturing at an awkward flip-chart to really get the audience involved. Dubus is clearly a talented stand-up, as he manages to keep an audience just about on-side despite their expectations being broken far too often; but as it stands, this is simply the wrong show for the performer.

In the end, this show is a good laugh, but feels slightly out-of-place and doesn't do full justice to its material. Dubus' moments with just himself and a microphone are excellently played and constructed; but his props and materials just get in the way. Go for the stand-up talent, but don't expect much expansion on the material available. It just isn't that kind of show.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2009.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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