Andrew O'Neill Review
Being a keen historian, and alleged descendent of James Watt, Andrew O’Neill’s Totally Spot on History of Britain held great promise for your reviewer. Unfortunately the show served as a warning: never judge a piece of comedy by the title.
Comedy history, as Marcus Brigstocke highlighted in his ‘We are History’ series, can often be hilarious. An often arrogant or eccentric lot, TV historians are excellent targets for satire. O’Neill (who, with his grungy look, nail polish, and new romantic air, would also make a good target) instead presents his material to the audience as if reciting a play or speech. While this lecture is well rehearsed, O’Neill proceeds to create a stand-up disaster on an industrial scale. A total lack of engagement with the audience eventually left me disinterested and bored. Improvised – or semi-improvised – comedy at least has the benefit of being able to detect what gets a laugh and what does not. O’Neill conversely, sticks rigidly to a script that relies far too much on that most difficult of comic devices: surrealism. The completely random quality of many jokes quickly becomes tedious and meaningless. As a result of this haphazard style the topic of industrialism (which had great potential) fades into the background in a torrent of poorly thought out jokes.
Like many a new romantic this show is superficially slick and shiny, yet far too pretentious for its own good. While it’s nice to see someone attempt a new subject, O’Neill lacks both humour and substance.