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Dan Atkinson: Death By A Thousand Pricks
Published on Sunday, 23 August 2009

You won't have to look far to find surreal comedy at the Fringe, so it's good to see a comedian harking back to an older style of stand-up. Dan Atkinson is very much in the tradition of stand-up as acerbic social commentary, aggressive and direct. While this is exciting to see, it also comes across as a little old-fashioned, and the rage is rather non-directional.

The 'thousand pricks' in Atkinson's title are not a disaster with some needlepoint: they are everyone who is 'repressed'. Everyone who buys Leona Lewis albums, everyone who engages in social niceties, anyone who calls talk radio... you get the idea. This is rage against modern life, against social mores, and against, well, nearly everything. Atkinson's style is witty, his pace is excellent, and his material interesting, but his rage is scattershot and vehement, and this makes the whole set slightly uncomfortable.

In fact, it's all just a bit juvenile, airing standby tropes like political correctness and 'some people are just idiots'. The audience seemed to be made up less of the cool, wearing-sunglasses-indoors rebels that Atkinson wanted, and more of the people he was describing. (By that I mean Leona Lewis and talk radio fans, not necessarily idiots. Unlike Atkinson, I certainly don't mean to insult them.)

It is disappointing to see a comedian as talented as Atkinson mired in his own self-regard. While the material was, in places, well-written and well-performed, it felt like watching children fighting on a playground: a little painful, and a little pathetic. Atkinson can do better than this: that is evident. He just needs to grow up a little.

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