‘I’ve been feeling a little bit down.’ Quite the understatement from Liam Williams, there. This 25-year-old former Cambridge Footlighter is wallowing in self-pity, describing his miserable existence in minute detail and explaining that teenage drug use has left him ‘permanently depressed and lazy’.
Doesn’t sound like the most chuckle-inducing of shows, eh? But Williams’s intricately written hour of misanthropy must be one of the strongest debuts at this year’s Fringe.
Every word in the Leeds-born comic’s highly scripted set has been heavily scrutinised and written for maximum comedic effect. He’s smart, and he knows it, using evocative, deliberately obtuse language and packing elaborate adjectives into his stories. It all combines to make some beautifully constructed lines and jokes that frequently pull the miserable, piss-stained rug from beneath you.
Williams intersperses his misanthropic tales of growing up in Leeds with lyrical stories and ideas, read from a book, including a wonderful ‘Catcher in the Rye’ parody called ‘The Stopper ‘mongst the Wheat’, and some alternative dating ideas from Time Out London (not that we’re biased, or anything). But the segments rarely halt the flow, rather they fit neatly into the narrative and add colour (if you count dark grey as a colour) to the hour.
There’s no conversational element, so it does occasionally feel like Williams is reciting a well-rehearsed script. But what a finely tuned, sophisticated and consistently funny script it is. We predicted this debut was going to be a cracker, and it feels good to be proved right. Oh, and the previously mentioned Time Out routine? We didn’t sponsor him, or anything. Honest.
See Liam Williams at the Edinburgh Fringe
See Liam Williams in London
A scruffy, bearded man who plays to rooms packed with lefties. Is Liam Williams the comedy Jeremy Corbyn? The self-confessed ‘reluctant socialist’ – returning here with his third solo hour of self-aware stand-up – certainly shares many of the same concerns as the new Labour leader: social justice, inequality, imaginary evil wizards who force you to marry your girlfriend (okay, maybe not that last one). But they differ on something fundamental: a confidence in the power of ordinary people to change the world, and especially dreary, cynical old England. Not for nothing did Williams title his show Bonfire Night, a reference to Guy Fawkes and his failed English revolution. Which isn’t to say the Leeds-born comic is uncaring – some of the best bits of the show bristle with righteous anger: the language of neoliberalism, with its ‘wealth creators’ and ‘trickle down’ economics (‘like if Noel Gallagher leaves 5p in a vending machine’), for example, is mercilessly skewered. It’s just that he can’t shake off his essential pessimism. In a bravura skit on climate change, he lays bare his (and our) rampant hypocrisy: he wants to save the planet but is happy to let fruit flown halfway across the world sit rotting in a bowl. It’s this delicious self-mocking streak, with gags aplenty, that brilliantly undercuts the heavy subject matter. Change the world? He couldn’t even convince the Edinburgh Festival organisers to let him use an emoji for the title of this show. It’s not all stand-upRead more