The Bill Murray, Highbury and Islington, London, 06/10/2019.
For once I’m not quite sure how to approach reviewing a comedy show as when it comes to this latest hour from Mark Dean Quinn it’s difficult to know how much of it was what he normally does each and every time, and how much of it was different due to the fact that it was his birthday. It’s an issue because Quinn is a fantastic comedian who when on script has a lot of very funny material, but there were aspects to this performance that felt like we were only getting half the show rather than the full version, as Quinn sometimes commented himself.
It’s a little frustrating too as parts were superb, but certain parts didn’t quite click or seemed a little rushed. This certainly didn’t apply to the beginning though as the audience entered the room and Quinn reassured us that if anything goes wrong it wouldn’t be our fault, and then he spent about ten minutes chatting about how it was his birthday, giving out presents to the audience (as that’s how he likes to spend the day) and instructing a friend to hit play on his iPhone at a certain point when he thought there’d be a certain level of tension, before disappearing to the bar. While he does this the audience are passing around sheets of paper with a long message on them, it’s amusing but not quite funny enough given the time it takes to complete.
Once he properly takes to the stage it becomes a lot more engaging as he discusses his hatred for knitters and how that began, but how that’s changed since his Edinburgh show came to a close, and this material is probably the best of the hour. But then he lurches in to a different segment of the show where he gets two audience members on stage to sit on chairs and stare in to each others eyes in the hope that they’ll fall in love while he sits in the audience and chats a bit, it’s a cute idea but he doesn’t do enough with it, and when he eventually starts doing some material while they stay on the stage it’s a relief as it had felt a little awkward.
Playing around with the concept of tension is something Quinn is clearly fascinated with, and perhaps in a standard show (if this wasn’t such a thing, which it was still difficult to know) when he hadn’t wasted so much time in the first half hour it might have had a stronger pay off. But towards the end he asks the two audience members if they’d fallen in love and after they unsurprisingly suggested they hadn’t, he comments that he always hopes that they have when they never do, and that was the end of that bit, and a rather limp ending it was indeed.
This review is probably overly harsh but it comes from a place of irritation as there are so many signs that Quinn is an accomplished comedian who can be very funny but we only get glimpses of that in the show, and in the final ten minutes when he talks about his plans for his next show it seems far more interesting than what we got today, and so it’s something of a mistake to do this. There’s a saying in comedy that you should always end on your best joke, but Quinn doesn’t come close to doing this, and doesn’t seem interesting in trying either.
All of which unfortunately doesn’t really translate in to essential comedy, or this particular performance didn’t anyhow. It’s a likeable show, yes, but also a very hollow one, and it’s hard to see the point in it. At one point Quinn talked about how difficult previous shows were, and how this time around he’d just wanted to create something where he’d have a nice time, but I always hope for a little more than that when it comes to seeing / paying for a full length stand up show and we certainly didn’t get it today.