Big Dumb Cats

Sat 4th – Fri 24th August 2018


Melissa Tutesigensi

at 09:36 on 10th Aug 2018



‘Big Dumb Cats’ is Daniel John Smith’s observation of the awkward as he airs his experiences on topics that many would prefer to best keep secret. It is an exposing, honest and shrewd show that makes no effort to leave the audience feeling comfortable. The title of the show is a reference to the theory that cats see humans as big dumb cats and adopt their behaviour to us accordingly. This is the sort of lens that Smith chooses to make his observations. He picks up on the less glamourous aspects of our behaviour in a way of revealing that, from a different point of view, we are rather strange, sometimes rather dumb. Within this framework Smith weaves in and out of various anecdotes and manages to tie together a full spectrum of personal topics, ranging from anuses to cancer to homosexuality and racism.

Although tackling a lot of topics, 'Big Dumb Cats' is certainly not a stream of consciousness. It is not disjointed observational comedy. It was stand up with a firm point: that there comes a time when you have to accept your situation – and it’s all about how you choose to accept it. Each anecdote was carefully told but in a way that flowed naturally. You could tell that everything was woven together and crafted but you couldn’t see the stitches. This was the real strength of the show. In curating each anecdote to aid the next, in tying it all together with the running motif of the big dumb cats perspective, Smith achieved a thoughtful show and, for that, it is definitely worth seeing.

Whilst Smith’s confidence in speaking so boldly about sensitive topics added to the humour as any awkwardness was quickly brushed away, not all subjects were given enough time to develop. Cancer, death, disappointment, repressed homosexuality are all knotty topics that could have, and arguably should have, had more room to be explored. It all could have been more and I wonder what Smith could have done if he was able to tell the stories in a longer format. Perhaps this wasn’t the best place for these delicate stories to be told. But Smith only promised a one hour show at the top of The Waverley and nothing more. For all of the potential that is certainly there with the stories, told through a stand-up means, it still works.

It must be said, 'Big Dumb Cats' is not a show for everyone and nor is it for every mood. It’s a comedy of a particular taste, but if you go you will be entertained – albeit in a darkly humorous way. If you know what you’re letting yourself into, you will enjoy it and if you happen to stumble across it when passing through The Waverly, who knows, you might be oddly surprised. In the spirit of the free fringe, it is definitely worth a go.


India Greenland

at 09:57 on 10th Aug 2018



‘Big Dumb Cats’ managed to combine moments of hilarity with a deeper look at some very serious issues. Daniel John Smith’s stand up comedy show touches on surprising content, from his mother’s cancer diagnosis, to his church minister grandfather’s death and his own sexuality. However, instead of taking things too far, the intensely personal nature of the traditionally unfunny topics that Smith uses for his comedy means that the show is never offensive or uncomfortable because of how dark the humour can be. It doesn’t feel wrong to laugh at.

‘Big Dumb Cats’ is thoughtfully constructed, and it includes many clever parts where connections are made with other parts of the show. For example, Smith’s reflections on human nature across the show point to the recurring theme that, in many ways, we’re just ‘big dumb cats’.

Also commendable is the way things are built up in ‘Big Dumb Cats’. Very successful for the humour of the show is Smith’s excellent technique of suddenly switching the tone from lightly funny to dark. At one point, the topic of two word texts comes up as Smith recalls receiving such a message from his mother one day at the office. Possible options of funny two word texts are discussed, before the reality of the one he received being ‘have cancer’ is revealed. The shock factor here is excellently handled by Smith.

Some of the content included a little too much toilet referencing for my taste, but it was always handled cleverly. It also always served a deeper and therefore ultimately funnier purpose rather than just being immature. Endearingly self-deprecating at times, some of the most hilarious moments were when Smith mocked his own reliance on his family’s trauma for his jokes and his ridiculous avoidance of going to the doctor out of embarrassment.

There was quite a casual atmosphere in this show, intimately settled at the top of a small bar. However, Smith managed to expertly capture everyone’s attention, especially in the more shocking moments of the show. He was always animated and energetic, not losing concentration for a second.

‘Big Dumb Cats’ was not consistently laugh out loud funny, but it was consistently entertaining and I didn’t get bored. There were a couple of moments that I found a little awkward because I wasn’t particularly amused by them. However, any lapses in funniness were more than matched by excellent parts of the show. Overall, it was a very good, free fringe comedy, and worth an hour of your time.


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