Writer and performer: Iain Stirling
Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
You used to know what to expect with generational comedy: an old bloke who’d been through the great depression and the two World Wars complaining that the young folks had it easy. Now we do not need the old bloke as, in Onwards!, Millennial Iain Stirling is willing to criticise his own generation.
Stirling acknowledges that Generation Y got the short end of the stick in terms of access to education; housing and public services. For his generation paying for sex is not a moral choice it is simply not financially viable. But Onwards! is not entirely sympathetic to the Millennials and there is little anger expressed towards previous generations who gobbled up all the resources. The tone is more one of rueful regret as Stirling tries to work out how the optimism of the 1990s was so misplaced and his generation were not briefed for failure: ‘I’ve got a 2:1 in Events Management – do you want fries with your order?’
The two themes of the show are Stirling trying to reconcile his own shallow and immature behaviour with that of his friends who have settled down and started families and his bafflement at the docile acceptance by Generation Y of the shabby way that they have been treated.
Onwards! combines Stirling’s elegant phrasing with some extremely crude routines Masturbation is ‘nature’s night nurse ‘, women are ‘liquid evil’ and Jeremy Corbyn is a supply teacher. Maybe it is a generational issue but the material might not be to everyone’s taste. There are a couple of lengthy routines on female pubic hair and mutual masturbation and particularly Stirling meditating on the advice he gets from his ‘inner voices’. There are parts of the show where patrons able to relate to a culture where social media is an essential part of life rather than just a convenient tool can best appreciate the humour.
Onwards! is a great crowd-pleaser but not perfect. Stirling works as his own support act and acknowledges that the first 20 minutes or so are little more than him ’waffling’. It is notable how much the act improves when it reaches the scripted section. Although Stirling poses a number of interesting questions about contemporary culture – how the concept of modern masculinity will permit males to send e-mails with emojis – but never really gets around to answering any of them.
Heaven knows it is refreshing to see a comedian who does not over-run but the rather abrupt ending without drawing together any of the themes that have been raised makes Onwards! feel like it has run out of steam rather than reached a satisfactory conclusion.
Reviewed on 26 February 2017 |Image: Contributed