It’s difficult being a geek sometimes; your peers always have set ideas about things you should have watched, and shows/films you should like. Many of my friends have condemned me for not watching Blade Runner, to the point where making sure I don’t see it has now become a matter of principle. I believe there’s actually a warrant for my arrest over my confession that I never really got into Spaced.
Another show I saw, but never found myself particularly enthralled by, was Black Books. Sure, it had Bill Bailey in it, and it seemed competently written and acted, but it just never grabbed me. So when the opportunity arose to review Dylan Moran’s latest stand-up DVD, I saw a chance to redeem myself in the eyes of my peers. I’ve gotten into stand-up comedy in a big way during these past few years, and I’d heard a lot of good things about Moran’s solo work.
So was I disappointed? For the most part, not at all. It’s hard to summarise the show, because it comes across as more of a stream-of-consciousness ramble than a structured, themed piece of stand-up, as Moran tackles such diverse subjects as doctors, children, religion, death, and at one point, furries (“I don’t know if it’s a sex thing; I hope so! I want to see a giant bilby fuck a giant wombat as much as the next person.”), all with a barely-suppressed nervous fury.
However, once you dive beneath his initially disconcerting stage persona, you begin to realise what a finely-crafted piece of work this is. Moran clearly has a flair for the spoken word (one of his first targets during the show is language), and knows how best to milk the humour out of every line, often in strange and surreal ways.
That said, What It Is feels like a slow burner, a reaction which seems to be shared by the audience. There’s a definite shift in the volume of their reactions between the show’s first and second halves. Some of this may have been due to them taking a while to adjust to Moran’s style (I still find the decision to film the DVD away from a home audience to be a curious one), but his act does change subtly after the interval.
Much of the first half comes across as a bit impersonal, with Moran ruminating on things from the standpoint of a detached observer, and seeming somewhat like a ranting pub drunk. During the second half, however, Moran seems to open up more, and so his rage comes from a more relatable, and thus more amusing, place.
While Moran’s rambling style leaves the show short on the proper belly laughs, there’s a lot here to like. Dylan Moran may not be up there with the likes of Eddie Izzard or Stewart Lee, but he’s a refreshing change of pace from some of the more mass-marketed comedians out there (not wanting to name any names, Michael McIntyre), and you could do a lot worse than to pick up this disc.
Stand-up comedy DVDs are often let down by their lack of extras, and I’m afraid that What It Is is no exception. The only special features available here are a gallery featuring a dozen or so very bizarre sketches drawn by Moran (far more surreal than anything in the show itself, and which left me scratching my head a little), and three short (2-3 mins) episodes of something called ‘The Perception’, in which Moran consults with a strange advisor figure. These show a more subtle side to his character, and raise a chuckle, but they’re over before they’ve begun, really.
With comics like Ross Noble and Richard Herring putting out multi-disc sets laden with extras, there really is no excuse for giving shows like this the bare-bones treatment anymore. That said, the main feature itself is well worth a look; just make sure you shop around before buying.
Dylan Moran What It Is Live is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.