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Alfie Brown gets accused of being overconfident. ‘Obviously!’ he shouts. He’s a comedian, charging people to hear him speak – of course he’s overconfident. But while he shares that trait with every other comic, it’s Brown’s courageousness that sets him apart. It takes guts to tackle the subjects he takes on.
Mental illness, paedophilia, slave labour, the word ‘nigger’ – the 27-year-old stand-up isn’t one to shy away from contentious topics, even when they occasionally make for tough listening. But Brown’s not in the market for easy, shock laughs; there’s depth and intelligence to his material. Stick with him and there’s always a satisfying punchline or smart viewpoint at the end of the path, even if the journey itself looks painful.
Other comics might touch lightly on the subject of paedophilia to crowbar in a quick Jimmy Savile joke. But Brown digs deeper, presenting a debate about the age of consent, and there’s not a Yewtree mention in sight. The hard-hitting comic forces us to question his, and our own, morals and he isn’t afraid to lose half the audience in the process. He’d rather not, of course – ‘I need you to like me!’ he says – but Brown has bombed enough times to brush it off when it happens.
You can see the constant battle going on in his mind. The London-born comic desperately craves laughter, and could easily write breezy routines you’d find on ‘Live at the Apollo’. But his personal pride and distain for boring comedy won’t allow him go down that route, and it makes the laughs all the more rewarding. Even when he has a stab at a ‘What’s the deal with airplane food?’ routine it’s given a bleak twist.
Brown is quickly establishing himself as one of the gutsiest, most compelling voices on the comedy circuit. If that means he sometimes has to sacrifice laughs to make a point (and he does here), so be it – when he’s not funny he’s still fascinating. Basically, Dapper Laughs he ain’t.
‘Alfie Brown – Divorced from Reality (and My Wife)’ is at the Pleasance Courtyard, 11pm
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