Review – Daniel Kitson: Not Yet But Soon3 April 2017
Daniel Kitson is a bearded man from Yorkshire. He has huge, thick glasses that move around and add an extra range of expression to his face, like a pianist with another two fingers. The first thing he does when I see his new show, Not Yet But Soon, is apologise for starting 20 minutes late. But the tickets were only $15. Kitson could easily charge triple that and he knows it. I feel that he owes us little.
After apologising, he rounds on the man controlling audio levels at the back of the room, “Have you just turned my mic up?”
“A little bit,” says the man.
“Yeah,” says Kitson. “Don’t do that. That was me using stagecraft. I was deliberately standing away from the mic to bring people in. It’s crucial that after we set a level, you resist the urge to be professional. Because, while a good deal of what I’m doing will look like incompetence, approximately 30% of it is intentional.”
And the mood has been set. Two improvised jokes with perfect timing. And something Kitsonian: an acknowledgement of the conceit of comedy. This theme runs through all Kitson’s stand-up and may be a reason why he tends to be the favourite comedian of other comedians—a few years ago, the Edinburgh Fringe asked over 100 British comics, and he was the top answer.
This is how you end up in his audience. You hear something like that—that he’s comedians’ favourite comedian—so you look him up. There isn’t much online. He eschews publicity, you learn. There’s no official Facebook or Twitter. On YouTube, only a couple grainy videos from over a decade ago. A single interview with Richard Fidler from the ABC, in which Fidler says, “Your comedy is art.” After seeing all that, you do what anyone would do—anyone, I mean, who cares about comedy and loves, at least in part because it tickles their ego, the idea of a lone genius. You find out when he’ll be in town and book cheap tickets.
“How many of you have never seen me before?” says Kitson early in his show.
Several hands go up. Kitson points to one of them.
“Who brought you here?” Kitson says.
“My mate,” says the guy. A pause. “My friend.”
“Did you just translate ‘mate’?” Kitson says. The audience cracks up. “We have that word in England. I use it all the time, mate. God bless you. That eagerness to communicate. The ferocious desire to be understood. You then,” says Kitson, pointing at the mate. “Did you hit him with the full legend? ‘You think you like comedy. You’ve not seen comedy until you’ve seen this guy do comedy. You’re laughing, you’re thinking, you’re crying, oh my God.’”
“Yeah,” says the guy, laughing.
“Did he give you a heads up on the speech impediment?” Kitson says to the newcomer. (Kitson has a stutter.)
“That is unfair, mate. You can’t drag people to see a guy talk who sometimes can’t talk.”
For the 100 minutes of Not Yet But Soon, the room has a taut, nervous energy. Everyone seems to be constantly trembling on the edge of laughter. Yet, it’s not the quality of Kitson’s jokes that is better than any other comedian’s. If he’s the best comedian alive, it’s something else—something magic and elusive.