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Edward Aczel Doesn't Exist
Published on Tuesday, 16 August 2011

3 stars

Underbelly, Cowgate (venue website)
5-28 Aug, 7:20pm-8:20pm
Reviewed by Hannah Van Den Bergh

 Recommended for age 16+ only.

Edward Aczel, the pioneer for ending his shows on a lull, is back with his ‘corporate-gone-wrong’ form of stand up. As though he were expecting a different audience - one with a higher ratio of suits and briefcases - Aczel worked through a routine including a PowerPoint of the creative processes behind Edward Aczel, and the potential 'showbiz pizazz' he could bring to new television ventures.

These ventures included Edward Aczel’s Warning May Contain Nuts, which may or may not contain squirrels, and a news-related panel show where he proves he can perform despite not using his legs (allegedly the Samson’s hair of comedy).  Whatever Aczel's 'thing' might be, it incorporates second-to-none timing and delivery, and a host of peculiar tics.  Edgy shuffles, clammy hands and a mic that’s too high but left unadjusted all the same, all win Aczel his own stream of awkward, deadpan humour – an extreme example of laughing at someone as opposed to with them.

There is, however, the sense that this has been done before, and that Aczel is exhausting his own comedy model. Take, for example, one scene of a French sketch animated with a series of hats, which is extremely overworked and very quickly loses its niche.

All the same, Aczel’s pastiche, all nervous tics and ad libs “with a trickle of improvisation,” makes for moments of comedy gold – only made better when he forces himself to maintain his sullen demeanour, fighting back his natural reactions to a witty heckle, the corners of his mouth flinching but ever controlled in that signature, placid frown.

The master of impassive, undervalued laughs, Aczel has truly broken down the layers of comedy to what’s been coined ‘anti-comedy’, creating this bumbling idiot of a character.  At times, he is almost uncomfortable to watch: you truly feel for him, the butt of his own deadpan wit. But all the same, it is irresponsible to “send your audience home in ecstasy… after all, some people are driving”.

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