Chris Betts: Social Animal

Wed 5th – Sun 30th August 2015

reviews

Flo Layer

at 01:09 on 11th Aug 2015

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I don’t think I’ve seen a more impressively luscious beard than the one sported by Chris Betts, Canadian stand-up comedian and toilet-graffiti enthusiast. It’s a shame, then, that he tells the audience fairly late in his set that "no, you can’t play with the beard". Putting that painful disappointment to one side, this down-to-earth comic delivered an original set with great results.

The set was tied up by an overarching anecdote of Betts’ experience working as a bartender; delving into various thrills, sights and spills along the way. Among the best were his discussions and impressions of the humiliating and ridiculous habits of people trying to pull each other in bars. While, according to Betts, 98 percent of ‘I love yous’ are said in bars, his stories prove that humanity’s mating rituals are both downright absurd and absolutely hilarious.

However, his talk about the pros and cons of arguing verses fighting was a little drawn out, which left the first part of his set dragging at a slow tempo. Although the reimagined shift of hooliganism from the realms of sport to the arts and poetry was great; the idea of a Haiku beating in 5, 7, 5 is a classic example of Betts’ clever material.

Yet his use of collected toilet graffiti excerpts easily proved to be the some of his best lines. The presumably drunken, yet bizarrely brilliant revelation about milk will surely make a number of the audience members release a small chuckle when next in the chilled section of the supermarket.

There was a noticeable and perhaps surprising shift from the ridiculous to the sublime as Betts turned his attention to a far more sober consideration of gender roles and the proper use of the word ‘slut’. Still with the same deadpan focus and dry delivery, Betts re-examined our social stereotypes in an originally funny way.

This wasn’t a laugh-your-socks off stand-up show but one which made you re-evaluate the hilarity of life, with plenty of chuckling along the way.

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Liam Marchant

at 09:24 on 11th Aug 2015

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It’s not easy to make people laugh when they’re stuffed into a claustrophobic metal box, only about as big as your local corner shop. Chris Betts, however, solicits big laughs in such a tiny space with deadpan wit on topics as eclectic as bank robbers and bar fights.

Betts starts strongly, revealing that “my American accent is from Canada” before moving on to some edgier jokes – much edgier jokes.

For the first half of the routine Betts consistently displays confidence in both tone and timing, a self-assurance which diminishes slightly during the latter part of the set. Nonetheless, the material itself is stellar throughout Social Animal, whether Betts deploys one-liners or longer, more observational narratives.

The stand-up dishes out social criticism from a bar stool, jibbing at the hypocrisy of straight men who moralise to promiscuous women. Admittedly, Betts often verges on didacticism when dissecting patriarchal cant – but it is a necessary message which he offers entertaining insights into, for the most part.

He may be a comedian with a social conscious, but Betts doesn’t let that stop him from pushing the boundaries. A joke that touches on 9/11 is the sort of the joke that one feels guilty for laughing so hard at (but not too guilty).

Betts is more than comfortable to delve into the bluer and dirtier stuff as well, complete with remarkably graphic hand gestures.

The comic’s skill is to weave these vulgarities in with more thoughtful reflections on sex and desire. After explaining to the audience about how orgasms, for him, are so much better and more meaningful when accompanied by love, he adds the footnote: “And I give orgasms 100% of the time because I’m a fucking craftsman”.

Betts’s routine mixes a bartender’s wisdom, a drinker’s aggression, and a recovering alcoholic’s self-effacement to make a thoroughly enjoyable comedic concoction. Nevertheless, this variety serves as a blessing and a curse for Social Animal as the material feels constantly fresh but occasionally confused and unsure of itself.

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