Self-declared self-obsessive Hal Cruttenden is back at the Fringe with a new show, Chubster. Having had some brilliantly creative show names over the last few years, he decided that he would go for something simple and enlist the help of his teenage daughters to name it. Children can be cruel.
They also tasked him with coming out to ‘Let it Go’ from Disney’s Frozen. It was the second time today I’ve seen a show open with that number, but to his credit, Cruttenden was exceptionally creative and surprisingly athletic in his entrance.
After such a bombastic beginning, Cruttenden seemed to slip into a lower gear; although I’m willing to forgive the drop considering his exertions minutes before. However, his recovery rate was far too long, and he took an age to pick up speed again. Instead, he opted for what felt like quite cheap gags and what I’d call lazy observational humour.
For large swathes of the show, I found myself smiling weakly more than the raucous laughter you’d expect from the sell-out comedian. I always worry that perhaps it’s just a misalignment of humour, so the fact that those around me had a similar reaction was both reassuring, and a little disappointing.
Making the (broken) promises of not getting political, and not ripping into his Northern Irish wife, Cruttenden takes us through an hour of musings on politics and equality. Both areas provide numerous low-hanging fruit, such as gun control, Brexit, and the decline of the liberal elite.
His gender based discussion certainly left me wanting, which is a real shame given the importance of the subject. I appreciate that it is difficult to provide insightful commentary of the historic, systemic gender inequality as a white middle class man. It’s important to show your support for readdressing the balance, and keeping the conversation going, but Cruttenden’s melodramatic and contrived comments were trying more than entertaining.
Yet, when he did find his stride, Cruttenden excelled. His comments on the decline of the liberal elite were excellent, and although ‘easy’, he nailed his imitations of his wife. Similarly, when he was more introspective in talking about his family interactions, that’s when he really excelled.
This show had smatterings of brilliance that are indicative of Cruttenden’s talent as a comedian, but all too frequently it felt like he was coasting.