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Review: Iain Stirling: Onwards!

Iain Stirling is a hard man to pin down. A veteran of both children’s television and the generally more adult genre of stand-up, he is perhaps best known for playing the straight man to a dog puppet on CBBC: not the most obvious career choice for a law graduate, he notes, much to his parents’ dismay.

Although this particular show was apparently rated PG, I find it hard to understand why it was given such a family-friendly rating considering the content. As a relatively worldly woman of twenty-three, I wouldn’t want to expose my parents to ten minutes worth of explicit terms for female genitalia in the name of comedy. I can only imagine how awkward it must have been for the twelve year old in the front row on the night I attended, and indeed, his dad.

I’m aware that I probably sound like a bit of a prude right now, but I’m not averse to the odd well-constructed sex joke. The operative phrase there, however, is “well-constructed”. Stirling, upon being confronted with a child in the audience, seemed almost to regress into a childlike state himself, relying on profanity to provide cheap laughs. It was more akin to what one might see from a fresher’s first nervous foray into stand-up than the performance of a seasoned professional.

Stirling periodically attempted to reassert his adulthood throughout the evening, but this mainly consisted of anecdotes about his cramped living conditions and unsuccessful sex life. As a millennial, I can understand this feeling of being in a generational no-mans-land between adult and child, and appreciated that it provides a rich vein of potential comedy material, but this potential was sadly not realised.

Having heard good things about Stirling from other comedy fans, and wishing to be supportive of a fellow Edinburgh alumnus, I had high hopes for what turned out to be an evening of cringeworthy attempts to be edgy. Although there were occasional moments of potential brilliance, these were usually laboured and unnatural. Stirling did put his degree to good use at one point though: I have never before heard a comedian use the phrase “prima facie” in a routine, nor do I ever expect to hear it again. In an evening which seemed determined to cater to the lowest common denominator, a little legal Latin was a surprising and refreshing addition to an otherwise bland routine.

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The Student Newspaper 2016