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Daniel Simonsen – Edinburgh Festival review

Wednesday, August 08 2012

It really shouldn't work, but it does. Stand-up Daniel Simonsen walks the line between awkward and absurd

Daniel Simonsen

Daniel Simonson shouldn’t be funny. He really shouldn’t. But somehow, improbably, he really is. Maybe it’s the funny accent (he’s Norwegian). Maybe it’s the even funnier accent when he does impressions of English friends – some kind of Nordic Cockney, like Arnold Schwarzenegger doing Dick Van Dyke. Maybe it’s his deadpan delivery that leaves you wondering if he even wants to be there. He’s a vacuum of ego, and yet, bizarrely compelling. Even more compelling is the fact that he seems as surprised by this as we are.

He’s painfully awkward, talks about being painfully shy, and yet seems weirdly unfazed. We begin with an extended offstage monologue as he prepares to introduce himself and seems to get side-tracked by explaining how squashed it is back there. Eventually he slouches onstage and tells a dead end story. It would have been better, he ruminates, if the situation had turned out differently. Then the story might have been funnier. For some reason this in itself is hilarious.

It’s not that he makes a show out of being bad – that’s another type of comedy. It’s a type of tightrope walk between awkward and absurd. Most of his material is quite basic, though there are some very astute moments too – though his status as a foreigner perhaps allows him greater licence with certain topics. There are moments when he seems to be cutting quite close to the bone – why he’s frightened of gay men, for example. But again, he seems to do the impossible and flip it round, making it an indictment against himself rather than anyone else.

This is his first full length Edinburgh show, and it does still need some refinement. At times there’s the sense of just talking until time runs out. There are some ongoing tropes (in particular, an excellent narrative thread about that voice in your head that thinks you’re a dick) – but often it feels too much like a disconnected medley thrown together.

Yet something about his laconic delivery remains perversely charming. You will come out laughing, in spite of yourself – and him.

3.5 stars

• Daniel Simonsen – Champions is on at 7pm at the Pleasance Courtyard

Review written by Sarah Sharp


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