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Home arrow Archive: EdFringe 2013 arrow Trouble With Comedy
Trouble With Comedy
Published on Sunday, 18 August 2013

2 stars

Laughing Horse @ City Cafe (venue website)
2-11, 13-26 Aug, 10:30pm-11:30pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Recommended for age 16+ only.

Being billed as an offensive act is a bit of a Catch 22. It helps ward off easily-offended punters. But it builds expectations from those seeking the shock factor. Inevitably it’s going to attract fans of the likes of Sadowitz and Boyle.

So just how offensive is Ian Cognito? Ok, well, quite. The topics alone are controversial (rape, paedophilia, wife-beating, Islam; he pretty much covers the lot). But it’s the strength of the material which presents the problem.   A lot of the gags – and there are a lot of gags – draw big laughs from the room, but it never quite scales the heights you might expect from someone who’s been performing for 28 years.

Cognito is an angry, bitter man. He doesn’t shy away from this fact. Why is he so offensive? Why does he make these jokes? He poses these questions as if someone’s just put their hand up and asked. Because he can, frankly. Because of free speech. “Because Frankie Boyle made £7 million last year.” This comment comes partly tongue-in-cheek, but you sense there is real bitterness in there.

Songs on the banjolele break up the dirty dad jokes. Cognito’s varied repertoire, covering everything from religion, politics, family life, and critics (fair enough, he’s had some tough breaks) leads him onto current affairs. He throws in a bit of Mugabe for good measure and shows that beneath the coarse exterior there is a thoughtful individual.

It is all “just words,” he says. There’s no need to be offended. And sure, there’s probably scope for a wider argument here: no topic should be off-limits, if treated well. But jokes about still-sensitive comedy subjects like Islam (blurring that line between laughing with and at) make one-time edgy gags about Catholic priests seem slightly naff and clichéd; and the routine as a whole suffers.

Cognito’s angst is understandable following a long career without any real breaks. He says he’s been banned from more comedy clubs than any other comedian, but that comes as no surprise owing to his self-styled willingness to take free speech for all it has.  Introducing names like Boyle and Micky Flanagan, of whom Cognito has been described as the poor man’s version, doesn’t help his cause. It encourages comparisons which aren’t necessarily in Cognito’s favour.

If it was clear Cognito was playing an embarrassing drunk sat at a bar bemoaning the hand life dealt him, we might be dealing with a highly rated show here. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Ian Cognito is not for everyone. He’ll tell you that himself, several times over.

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