David Lee Nelson... Status Update - Free

Thu 4th – Sun 28th August 2011

reviews

Jade Symons

at 09:53 on 29th Aug 2011

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“David Lee Nelson - Status Update” was the most depressing piece of comedy I have ever watched. It seemed confused as to whether it was supposed to be funny, or a tragic story of loss and bitterness.

The general story of the show revolves around Nelson’s divorce, and his obsession with following his ex-wife’s life on Facebook. However, the whole thing comes across as a little stalkerish and weird, leaving the audience thinking “get over it”. Whether in reality or as part of his onstage persona, the performance makes it astoundingly clear that he’s not yet recovered.

Yes, the end of a relationship can feel like the worst thing in the world, and yes, it can take a very long time to get over it, but that doesn’t mean that other people want to know about it. I imagine that for many audience members, the experience either brought back horrible memories for them, or highlighted all the problems that plague their own relationships.

A series of depressingly straight-faced and bitter videos left many audience members shifting uncomfortably in their seats, as they were confronted with the gory details of a failing relationship. This was - supposedly - juxtaposed with comedic interludes, to lift the mood of the piece from suicidally depressive. Unfortunately, the bitterness and angst shone through even here, making the whole experience very uncomfortable to watch.

On a more positive note, the American jokes and references had been well translated for this side of the Atlantic, something that’s not always done successfully by comedians. Nelson also kept up a very enthusiastic energy throughout the performance, which is admirable when people are (very rudely, in my opinion) walking out of the show, in plain view of everyone.

When comedy actually featured in the performance, and wasn’t followed by a bitter aftertaste, the audience did laugh. As it was, I left “David Lee Nelson - Status Update”, wanting to give the poor man a hug. However, had he performed a show that wasn’t genre-confused, I feel that I would have found him very funny indeed.

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Alexandra Sayers

at 12:05 on 29th Aug 2011

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David Lee Nelson’s show begins not with the man on stage but with the man on video, projected onto the black curtains from the back of the room. It shows Nelson outside a busy street, talking about his wife in a slow and distracted manner, pausing irrelevantly and making way for the noises of the rush-hour traffic. It was enough to make me seriously hope that the man would come on stage and that I hadn’t sat down to one hour of video blogging. Luckily, Nelson did appear, and his live-set started with a great response from the audience. Perhaps this was partly due to the audience silence that enveloped the beginning video: a needed release of tension and a chuckle of relief as we realized this show might actually be funny. And indeed it continued to offer amusement: Nelson excelled in his specifically engineered jokes: a relatively long and winding statement or story followed by a quick, blink and you miss it punch-line. This distinctive method meant that his delivery was well practiced and slick, enabling easy-laughing places within and throughout his set.

But the videos soon returned. The main issues Nelson tackled were money, drinking, religion and marriage, and between all these were video blogs charting his journey from a married to a divorced man. Whilst the live sections remained funny, the videos became more and more bleak: at first, I thought the idea of the video may have been to play around with usual stand-up routines, add some variation into an otherwise predominantly static performance. But instead, they became a kind of therapy session, a cathartic attempt to rid himself of his ex-wife’s presence. No resolution, however, was achieved by the end. Still sad, still missing her, he ends the show on a point of misery rather than happiness. This video inclusion, it seems, was made for Nelson, and not for the audience. I didn’t know what to do with it and how it was supposed to feed into the set. His live performance though is decidedly for laughs. His jokes are original and clever, critically aware of the contradictions of the modern age, from ‘drink responsibly’ alcohol adverts to cringe-inducing Facebook statuses. At one point, he mentions that he has a degree in acting, and you can certainly tell during this set. He is comfortable around the stage and confident in his deliveries, demonstrating a great awareness of comic timing and an engagement with the audience. If this show was a Facebook relationship update, it would be under ‘it’s complicated’: a tragicomic amalgamation of Nelson’s adult life that doesn’t quite know where it’s going or how serious it wants to be. Still, worth seeing it for the ride.

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