It would be easy to blame the audience. It would be easy to blame the half-full room for how things played out. But it wasn’t the audiences’ fault. Not really. Surely Saturday night’s the time for laughing? As the audience filed in everyone seemed in good humour, ready for comedy from ‘the comedians comedian’ – a term somewhat verified through a quick Twitter scroll which revealed numerous well-known comedians had been in touch with him and were advocating going to see Kindler’s first UK shows in 13 years. A bit of shuffling ensued as audience members were relocated to fill seats, those in the balcony had numerous new spots to choose from.
Kindler emerged, slightly late, clasping a can of Red Bull and his mobile phone which displayed a timer. His first joke was a reference to the admittedly small crowd. It was funny. He made a simillar joke, just with different phrasing. It was a little funny. He repeated the process. It was less funny.
Such was Kindler’s approach for the entire set. What could have been self-referential or self-deprecating instead became accusatory. It felt like the audience was being told off, both for not being a big enough crowd and for not laughing enough. This might have been regarded as being justified if enough reasons to laugh had been provided. The hour long set was comprised with a large majority of comments about the audience and the, lack therefore of, responses rather than providing them with actual jokes to laugh at.
The odd moments that were truly funny stood out because they were moments in amongst the not-really-working rest of the set. When a joke did land Kindler then stuck with it, utilizing the formula of repeating various incarnations of the joke until the laughter diminished, then talking about how he had pushed past the punchline and should have stopped before talking about how little laughter he was being provided with.
The problem, perhaps, might have been that most of the audience didn’t get what they were expecting – something Kindler briefly touched upon early on. The fact his set is entitled ‘The Ugly America Tour’ along with the marketing materials soundbite of ‘Over 10 years have passed since Andy Kindler performed in the UK, and there’s never been a better time for him to make his Amerexit than right now.’ – many may have presumed they were going to get an hour of structured comedic socio-political commentary.
Instead the set didn’t have a clear structure at all, when not discussing the audience lack of laughs Kindler relied on jokes about Hitler, being Jewish and having OCD. And, when these jokes either didn’t land or didn’t generate the much-craved laughter, he’d return to discussing the fact he wasn’t getting the laughter he craved.
This came to a head mid-way through the show when Kindler made an allusion to Louis C.K, indirectly referring to C.K’s recent stand-up ‘comeback’. Two audiences members stood up to walk out, Kindler addressed them and asked why they were leaving. The husband replied ‘We’ve got to go. Harvey Weinstein’s babysitting the children.’ The wife stated matter-of-factly that they were going to go and get a refund. Whether they thought Kindler’s schtick had been pro-C,K – it hadn’t – remained unclear. What wasn’t unclear was how displeased the few die-hard fans within the audience were at this interruption. There were jeers targeted at the departing couple, accompanied with a ‘dickhead’ and ‘fuck off’. It was a moment of mob mentality that was truly uncomfortable to witness.
Having only just discussed his obsessive thoughts, it was clear that Kindler had been shaken by the incident. Things didn’t really get back on track from there. He continued to throw everything and anything at the metaphorical wall, aka the audience, to see what would stick. Very little actually did.
Andy Kindler is performing at the Soho Theatre from Thursday 6th until Saturday 15th September.