EFR - Reviews of Adam Benjamin and Victor Preda: Icomeclasts

Adam Benjamin and Victor Preda: Icomeclasts

Sun 9th – Sun 30th August 2015

reviews

Caspar Jacobs

at 10:24 on 18th Aug 2015

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Stand-up comics Adam Benjamin and Victor Preda perform with a special guest every night in their show Icomeclasts. Having three comedians meant that it was show of very mixed quality. I laughed or snickered a few times, but at other times I simply felt embarrassed, especially when one of the comedians' act included misogynistic parts.

Benjamin talked about a host of issues, including feminism and racism. He explained why he doesn't want to call himself a feminist, and why he hits on black women in clubs but doesn't want to have black children. The reason, he explains, is that he can't empathise with people who are not like him. And, OK, I get it, some people are like that, and I guess admitting your mistakes and deciding you're okay with them is in a way better than not realising them – or maybe it just makes you a worse person. But please can you not talk about women like they are sexual objects? And please can you not sexualise race? It's awful, not even remotely funny.

Victor Preda, who hails from Romania and therefore has a charming accent, was at his funniest when he was being dry. For example, when he talked about his migration from Romania to London and from there to Edinburgh: “In Romania I lived in a house. In London I lived in a house. And now I live in a house again. I go from house to house to house.” As he readily admits himself, sometimes he can digress, but this wasn't always enjoyable. For example, when he took a long time to go through all the different possibilities of why his house smelled he got a bit boring.

The night's guest, Michael Stranney, was by far the funniest of the three. His nervousness, whether it was played or real, was endearing. He also added an interesting element to the mix by coming on stage twice, but each time as a different persona. At the end of the act he broke the fourth wall (“I'm not Felix Starr. I'm just Michael Stranney!”) which worked well – he was at his funniest when he wasn't taking his act too seriously.

It is sad that even Stranney, who was very much the redeeming factor of the night, still felt it was necessary to make fun of autistic people in one of his jokes. Combining my feelings about these three men, I have to say the show was very disappointing.

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Luke Howarth

at 23:47 on 18th Aug 2015

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If subversive comedy is a test of a performer’s ability to ironise, Icomeclasts fails spectacularly. When Adam Benjamin (shortlisted for the 2014 BBC New Comedy Award) announces that he isn’t a feminist because the movement reminds him how easy he should be finding his life – or that he doesn’t want children of a different ethnicity because it would be more difficult to live vicariously through them – he isn’t drawing awkward attention to oppressive structures, raising an uncomfortable eyebrow at the opinions he’s pretending to advocate. There is no mirror being held up; it doesn’t come from a place that is outraged by inequality. It’s just toe-curlingly, humourlessly unpleasant.

Maybe that’s the point of the show. If Adam Benjamin and Victor Preda aspire to iconoclasm, perhaps they would be delighted at the idea of infuriating stuffy, liberal reviewers. It doesn’t change the fact that Icomeclasts is, for the most part, deeply unfunny.

Preda, originally from Romania, enters with more energetic charisma than Benjamin. His relaxed extraversion onstage contrasts with his partner’s awkward gesticulations; he greets us with the offer of sex: “I would fuck all of you guys!” His comedy is more visceral, and more tangential, with a fondness for surreal digressions that only occasionally hit the mark.

The show was at its best when the performers avoided controversy. Preda entertains with an enjoyable ramble about being trapped in houses, but the humour soon ebbs when he suggests that some houses smell of ‘negligence’ – like vaginas. Don’t misunderstand him, though - he loves vaginas. “Everyone loves vaginas, right guys?”

Benjamin and Preda are joined by a guest comic every night. When I saw the show, 2014 NATY winner Michael Stranney filled the slot, and proved the highlight of an otherwise disappointing evening. An affected nervousness complemented whimsical anecdotes about growing up in rural Ireland, and his impatience towards the audience elicited some of the biggest laughs of the show.

It is unfortunate that the regulars were outclassed so comprehensively by their guest. Many Free Fringe comedians boast sets that approach complex topics in a manner that is both irreverent and compelling: subversive but humorous nonetheless. The heavy-handed and self-pitying Icomeclasts, however, are not among them.

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