There are caveats and the equivalent of those ‘health warnings’ that come just before a party political broadcast on television, which Connor Burns deems to be sufficient insurance against the punchlines that could easily offend the easily offended. “It’s not you that’s going to be cancelled, just me,” he mischievously grins, before launching into the sort of material that would be unlikely to be broadcast these days. Not that Burns cares, or at least by his own admission, he’s too much of a blokey-bloke to admit publicly to caring. Even an unassuming Soho Theatre crowd gasped at a gag about, for instance, Oscar Pistorius, and another about the parents of Madeleine McCann – but Burns is a well-travelled man, and the touring circuit seems to suit him just fine.
The usual banter with front row (or close to front row) punters revealed a fairly cosmopolitan crowd was in on the night I attended – a few people from Australia, nobody from Liverpool, and so on and so forth. Where so-and-so was from seemed to be a springboard into talking about his experiences in certain places around the world. A story about a radio talk show appearance was particularly amusing – the topic under discussion just prior to Burns’ slot promoting his comedy gig was the continuing relatively low profile of women’s sports, with a jetlagged Burns on a radio breakfast show suddenly being asked what he thought about that: a rabbit in the headlights moment.
A working-class lad with an upper-middle-class long-term girlfriend – an American criminal defence lawyer whom he speaks very respectfully about – Burns covers an astonishing amount of ground in an hour-and-a-bit-long gig, which totally unsurprisingly overran. I liked a section about various accents and how attractive, or unattractive, they can come across, including his own Scottish accent and those of places like Belfast and South Africa. A relatively laid-back persona, Burns is deliberately understated, and his more conversational style somewhat ironically makes him stand out in a world with so many shouty voices.
Whether he’s on about lesbian bedroom activity or imposter syndrome, or indeed charcuterie boards, there was a whiff of this comedy gig being the standup equivalent of throwing various types of pasta at a wall and seeing what sticks. The flip side is that different punters will have different punchlines they especially enjoyed, and Burns is almost at pains to emphasise that practically everything he’s saying shouldn’t be taken too seriously. It is, after all, a standup show. Oh, and there’s no takeaway message either, or if there is, Burns didn’t write the show with one in mind.
A show, quite literally, for all ages, with everyone from the over-fifties to teenagers lovingly lampooned, there was never a dull moment in this lively set from a comedian unafraid to tell it like it is.
Review by Chris Omaweng
A punchline-packed show featuring submarines, relationships and the inevitable family drama. Hilarious, relatable, a bit rude in places of course and all the while served up with superb material, brilliant delivery and proper belly laughs.
Phil McIntyre Live Ltd by arrangement with MZA present:
Connor Burns: Vertigo
Thu 16 – Sat 18 Nov 2023