Will Mars: Schtick Shift

Fri 5th – Sun 28th August 2016

reviews

Julia O'Driscoll

at 21:56 on 8th Aug 2016

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Mars claims that Stand Up comedy is a fantastic expressive outlet in his day to day life; as such, the show ‘Schtick Shift’ is filled with observations, anecdotes and cynical self-assessments. The material is varied but always controlled, and the show is clearly well practiced without feeling stale. He almost fills a sixty seat damp and dark bunker on a rare sunny afternoon at the Fringe: I think this speaks for itself!

The mood is welcomingly casual; Mars was the show’s doorman, usher, and techie before he’s even stepped onstage. From this point, the material carries itself. At 38, Mars realises he doesn’t know who he is, who he wants to be and what’s more, perhaps that’s for the best. His entire attitude is summed up with his one crucial message for the audience: “Don’t follow your dreams”. Although this show of dark comedy won’t be for everyone, I find this fast-paced performance refreshingly brutal. The set up for most gags is perfectly measured, and at times the jokes only get funnier as the punchlines are drawn out.

It must be said that some sections are weaker than others: his justifications on buying battery-farmed chicken over free range don’t get much support from the typically middle class Edinburgh audience members, although to any crowd I’d say his defences are pretty underwhelming and not his best gags. He even speculates for a few minutes on new tactics terrorists could try out; it isn’t as bad as it could have been, and the punchline almost carries him through, but at this point, (45 minutes in to an hour long show) I feared from the nervous chuckles and unsure glances that this could’ve cost him the crowd for the remainder of the performance.

What I liked about Mars' style is that he seems completely effortless. He is personable, relatable and sharp. ‘Schtick Shift’ is an hour of easy watching and dry humour. Mars is quietly confident so that when a joke falls flat there is no awkwardness, he’s the first to embrace the potential from these moments, highlighting his own errors to a much more humorous end. As a free show, Will Mars is certainly worth an hour of your afternoon, and a few quid to contribute to those crippling travel expenses he’s had to stump up commuting from New York to Edinburgh – but I’m glad he did!

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Ruby Gilding

at 09:26 on 9th Aug 2016

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Will Mars has brought a remarkable four shows to the Fringe, including the return of the widely acclaimed ‘Joke Thieves’, but this year he appears to have spread himself too thinly. This is a one man show in all senses; Mars is not only the act, but sound technician and usher for his solo performance ‘Schtick Shift’.

Mars’ confession that stand up is his only way of expressing himself does not justify him to precede with comedy that fully indulges in his own insecurities. At thirty eight years, he has decided to place himself under the ‘old man’ guise – in a rare moment of ingenuity, this crisis turns out to be an unwillingness to discover his identity.

‘Schtick Shift’ is billed as the comedian’s first completely clean hour of humour (hence the change in his ‘schtick’) and considering Mars’ various accolades, it promised to be a non-stop hour of one liners. However, the strong precedent set by the show’s witty flyer is soon established as the highlight of his stand up routine.

As the show is part of the Free Fringe it was impressive that Will Mars drew a crowd large enough to fill the venue. Opening with the disclaimer “now I’m not against breast feeding but…” the show’s jokes continue to never quite hit the mark. His half-hearted nihilism, and awkwardly charming persona is characteristic of a performer who desperately clings to the subject of “how poor I am”. With sketches drawn from predominantly autobiographical material, the show gradually derails in its attempts to sustain an hour of comedy.

This rambling structure relies on the subject of age or money to rally the audience. However, amidst the tired jokes, there are glimpses of welcome, lefty humour as Mars tackles head-on serious topics such as homelessness and animal rights. Delivered with erratic bursts of energy, these sections hint at his potential, but the production needs an established direction besides the assurance of “clean” gags in order to feel truly substantial.

Mars admits his neurotic focus on the audience’s youth, and that his self-depreciating style “shouldn’t be done too much, should it?” in a refreshing moment of self-awareness. This type of humour may well be ideal for some, as although ‘Schtick Shift’ falls short of a polished show, there are strong one liners delivered. But largely ‘Schtick Shift’ is stand up that lags, with its few break out points failing to redeem the show.

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