Phoenix Artists Club, Soho, London, 18/08/2019.
There’s plenty of stand up comedians who do storytelling shows but there are very few who leave reality behind within the first five minutes and proceed to tell a tale which is completely impossible and absurdly ridiculous. Yet Steve Vertigo manages to do so in such a way that it would be incredibly easy to believe that every mad part of the story that he tells us actually did happen.
His dry, relaxed style works perfectly with this particularly unique brand of storytelling as he begins his tale with the fact that one day he was standing by Brighton Pier watching the starlings fly through the sky en masse, and one flew down and started chatting to him about murmuration, the event where tens of thousands of starlings all fly together. A week later and he’s wearing a costume consisting of a few feathers and a button and before he knows it’s he’s joined them in the sky, swooping and diving all over the place.
It’s the kind of thing which in the wrong hands could be painful to watch, full of whimsy but no substance, but Vertigo manages to tell the tale in such a manner that his observations about his antics make the audience laugh a lot, and this continues to be the case as he tells other stories. The first revolves around his obsession with Hard Maths, and involves Stephen Hawking and Peter Stringfellow in a delightfully daft manner, and then the next covers his supposed love for technology including Siri, Alexa and various other interactive apps, only for them to turn on him and attempt to destroy his life. It’s the kind of thing that Charlie Brooker creates nightmares out of in Black Mirror, but here Vertigo manages to avoid making it disturbing and it’s just ludicrously funny instead.
In the final quarter he has a story about how lonely he is, and how he began dating himself which starts strongly but is the only element which I had minor issues with as I’ve heard other comedians cover similar ground. Not that the majority of the jokes aren’t original and I’m in no way suggesting he’s copying any other comic, just that it isn’t quite as fresh and as innovative as the rest of the material. Also a slight problem is that it goes on for a bit too long, and I found myself wishing that he’d go back to a subject matter that was more unpredictable as that’s something he does impressively well.
It’s a very minor complaint however and quite possibly something only I had an problem with as the rest of the audience enjoyed the segment a lot. And it isn’t that long before he returns to the tale of his flying through the skies, with it ending in a pleasingly effective manner. Before the gig I hadn’t been aware of Vertigo’s work but he’s instantly made it on to the list of comedians whose new shows I will see as soon as I get the chance, as it’s an hour of engaging, innovative and original comedy from an expert comedian who knows how to made his audience laugh an enormous amount.