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Alex Kealy: Winner Takes All – Edinburgh Fringe

Sitting at the (slightly) more intellectual end of the Fringe’s comedy offerings, Alex Kealy explores what the deal is with technological companies and the sheer monopoly power they wield in modern society – Google, for instance, used to have ‘Don’t be evil’ as its motto, which is, Kealy asserts, something that most people who work in most other companies do without the need for reminders. Then there was the whole thing with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica (Google it if you must, other search engines are available). A call for abstention is an interesting one, not least because the show goes on to explore how difficult that is in practice.

Alex Kealy: Winner Takes All
Alex Kealy: Winner Takes All.

But just when I thought Kealy would take me to task if he ever found out I’ve ordered Deliveroo on my iPhone, there’s some welcome pragmatism. The Fringe venue is one that operates a ‘pay what you want’ policy, subject to availability. Paying full price in advance guarantees you a seat, and if it isn’t sold out, and/or there are no-shows, punters can get in, technically, for free, although most make a donation on the way out. But the contactless device Kealy has to hand apparently links to PayPal, also on the list of unsavoury organisations.

The irony is not lost that Kealy is, for instance, a Spotify user. It’s not a show that’s going to convince audiences to completely change their behaviour but it serves as a useful reminder that, for example, while most social media platforms are free at the point of use, they are ultimately profit-making organisations. Facebook is not your friend, Amazon is not your ally. A subplot about Kealy’s mental health challenges is commensurate with other comedy shows at this year’s Fringe, and not just because lockdowns were difficult. With a rapid but charming delivery, it’s a solid hour of well-informed and well-researched material, as explanatory as it is enjoyable.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Big Tech firms have all pivoted to business models involving advertising, surveillance, addiction and monopoly, reneging on their previous idealistic visions of what the internet could achieve. Alex Kealy is determined to document this because it’s the big political tussle of the 21st century and, crucially, not because he recently had a break-up and his ex works at Google.

Alex Kealy: Winner Takes All
The Hive @ Monkey Barrel
Fringe Venue Number: 313
Dates: 2 – 28th August 2022

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