Insufficient Memory

Thu 2nd – Sat 25th August 2018


Miles Jackson

at 17:46 on 26th Aug 2018



There’s been an ever escalating trend amongst stand-up comedians at the Fringe over the past few years to inject a degree of self-seriousness into their sets. Indeed, such is the glut of ‘sad comedy’ that the premise of Matthew Highton’s ‘Insufficient Memory’ is in fact almost identical to that of another stand-up show seen at this year’s Fringe, ‘Steen Raskopoulos: Stay’. Both acts frame their show around the conceit of a grandparent suffering from dementia, yet Highton’s feels much less cynical than other emotional comedy acts at the Fringe, even if his blisteringly optimistic anecdotes sometimes stilt the actual comic effectiveness of his show.

Perhaps the reason that Highton doesn’t fall trap to the maudlin navel gazing other comedians of his ilk tend to subscribe to are his constant interactions with the crowd throughout the set, involving our lives in the routine as much as his own. Before the gig even begins he casually chats with the crowd. He asks that they write down a treasured memory from their lives and place them in a jar, which he routinely picks from over the course of the show, providing the backbone of an earnest and endearing exploration of memory punctuated with some mildly amusing jokes.

Indeed, Highton cleverly contrasts weighty abstract concepts such as love, death and time with relatable tales of mundanity. One particular story about a trip to Liverpool to find a lost love manages to be both laugh-out-loud funny and remarkably touching. Often, however, Highton’s observations aren’t as deftly balanced, with many stories valuing emotional sincerity whilst actual jokes are fairly thin on the ground.

Like most of the comedians I’ve seen at The Dragonfly, Highton is a genuinely likeable and charming presence, which excuses the fact that his comedy is often fairly tepid. Your enjoyment of the show will most likely come down to how insightful you find his musings on the unknowability of life. Those that can emotionally engage with his often fairly touching stories will likely enjoy their an hour spent with Highton, even if the laughs don’t come as often as you might like.


Sally Christmas

at 17:50 on 26th Aug 2018



Matt Highton’s 'Insufficient Memory' is a really lovely bit of comedy. After watching his grandma fall ill with dementia, Highton uses his show to explore how we are shaped by our memories, and the end result is a stand-up set that is uplifting as well as funny.

There’s always something a little nerve racking about seeing a comedian live, especially in an intimate venue like Dragonfly, where there’s nowhere to hide if you’re not laughing – but for this show, I needn’t have worried. With a unique combination of absurd humour and heart-warming stories, Highton held his own throughout. Despite covering everything from his first heartbreak to his fear of being stung on the bum by a bee, the set felt natural and cohesive, with the underlying theme of finding out who we really are tying everything together. Not all of the punchlines were met with the response he’d been hoping for, and a couple of times he even warned us that he wasn’t sure if we were going to like a joke, which was odd, as it made it more likely that it would fall flat. But, he took it all in his stride, recovering well, moving on and delivering the next one that delivered.

This is a show that is wonderfully refreshing in its lack of cynicism. With Donald Trump and Boris Johnson constantly looming over us, more and more comedy is becoming political, trying to find new ways to rephrase the same things, or at least shoehorn in an obligatory Brexit joke. Not here. Most of the comedy comes from his family memories, his childhood antics, and his relationship with his fiancée. 'Insufficient Memory' hopes to add a little bit of joy to your life, and judging by the smile on my face as I left the venue, Highton hit the mark perfectly.

I’m not usually a fan of audience participation in comedy – I find the thought of being picked on more stressful than anything else – but Highton uses it creatively in a way that really adds to the show. Arguing that we are all shaped by the things we experience, he asks us to write down a happy memory and reads a few out, giving him some great material and adding a nice, personal touch.

With 'Insufficient Memory', Matt Highton offers us some heart-warming stand up that will get you laughing and leave you smiling. With no politics, no doom, no gloom, and an uplifting message, 'Insufficient Memory' provides a hilarious respite from the difficulties of the modern world. Do yourself a favour – grab a ticket and let Highton make you happy.


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