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Leo Kearse: Transgressive at Edinburgh Fringe | Review

Leo Kearse
Leo Kearse

With comedy acts from all over the world descending on Edinburgh for the Fringe, it’s refreshing to hear a Scottish accent on stage. Leo Kearse grew up in Scotland and was ‘raised’ (inverted commas his) by hippy parents who were so left-wing that it was almost inevitable that he would end up right of centre. He’s not the only one who is finding it difficult to navigate the etiquette of what is currently acceptable in terms of descriptors – it is, frankly, a bit of a mess to say the least. It is bad to say ‘coloured people’ but okay to say ‘people of colour’ (or at least it is at the time of writing), and Kearse’s rapid-fire exploration of various inclusive terms is a delight to listen to: there are so many inconsistencies that one is effectively damned if one does and damned if one doesn’t.

Kearse has been told he possesses a significant amount of ‘toxic masculinity’, though it is to his credit that he has explored the matter in the first place. He explains what he knows about what toxic masculinity is (I shall leave anyone interested but unsure to look the term up on a search engine of their choice), but then, mostly because this is a stand-up comedy gig, he determines that a degree of toxic masculinity needs to be retained, in order to fend off against threats in a country where the thin blue line stretches ever thinner, leaving citizens themselves to do what they can to serve and protect one another.

There’s no obligation to agree with any of this, but his observations are undeniably witty. That said, it’s almost as if he’s trying too hard to go for the controversial stance on, say, being ‘woke’, just for laughs. But he sees that as his job – to be subversive, to go against the grain, to tread where most other people would rather not. Whatever he’s talking about, he has a genuinely engaging style: when he is sexually harassed by a doctor, he manages to make the whole situation highly amusing – no mean feat.

Levels of observational comedy are strong here, and Kearse is unafraid to roll with stereotypes, expressing surprise, for instance, that there were fellow Scots in the audience (thus setting aside frugality and spending money on tickets to Edinburgh Fringe shows). Overall, a personal and entertaining comedy hour.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Leo Kearse’ previous show, Right-Wing Comedian, was banned from certain venues following allegations of transphobia, despite being written with a transgender woman he was dating. In response, Transgressive, the new show from Scottish Comedian of the Year 2017/18, asks searching questions such as, is ‘wokeness’ itself bullying and intolerant? Has social media become a medieval church where the masses show their piety through witch hunts? If victim status is powerful in 2019, isn’t punching down really punching up?

A candid account of sex and censorship that rips into political correctness, victim culture and ‘wokeness’, Transgressive also looks at the vital role transgression plays in society, and the damage wrought by censorship, whether it’s racists assassinating Martin Luther King or universities banning sarcasm. In the process, Kearse looks at the hypocrisy of environmentalists and male feminists, why Trump is great, how men are discriminated against, and the absurdities of fat activists, homophobia and #metoo.

Phil McIntyre Entertainment & Mike Leigh Associates presents
Leo Kearse: Transgressive
Gilded Balloon Teviot, (Nightclub)
31 July – 26 Aug 2019


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