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Erich McElroy is Presidential
The Crown and Two Chairmen
3rd July 2013


Erich McElroy

Photography supplied by Erich McElroy

It's always difficult to write reviews such as this. In this show, Erich McElroy gave us a whistle-stop overview of American politics, particularly pertaining to the run-up to the last election. During which, he presented a series of clips, soundbites and ad campaigns from the trail, running from the sublime to the ridiculous. But what he didn't do as well was to give us a taste of himself as a stand-up. This inevitably leads to the eternal quandary for the comedy critic - do we rate the end product, or the craft surrounding it?

Very affable, likeable and self-deprecating, the Seattle-born but London-based comic kicked off the show with banter playing with the audience of mixed ethnicities. While genial, he lacked a few quickfire quips and instead seemed to just chat with the Italians and Columbians in our audience, putting them at ease rather than slicing them down. When he did venture into the territory of racial stereotypes, he did it with a nod and a wink that made it impossible to be offended by - and setting out his stall early as a duel-citizenship liberal allowed him to get away with it all.

McElroy's show, seemingly propelled on nervous energy and possibly 30 cans of Red Bull, then kicked off proper, in which he set out to discuss a favourite topic of his - politics. But not boring, instead the barmier side. It was like a TED talk of general congressional idiocy, featuring clips such as rent-a-nut Alex Jones shouting at Piers Morgan or Irish politician Paul Gogarty using some colourful language in parliament. From his side of the pond, Republican attack ads and news clips were roundly mocked in the style of Tarrant on TV.

That's not to say it was all a case of him sitting down and letting the rabid Right of US politics do the heavy lifting. His material balances crudity and a lightness of touch to great effect. McElroy attempted to push the envelope a little further using his aforementioned irony to frame some material on prostitutes and Nazism which, while not going down a storm with the audience - as he admitted - was appreciated by those of us looking for an edge. Comedy when dangerous (but not lazy button-pushing) can be some of the best, and even the jovial and off-the-cuff manner in which it was presented here amused. When the joke wasn't necessarily the most original, McElroy's slightly nerdy, slightly right-on delivery made it more worthwhile.

It was also when he was having more fun with the medium that things seemed to fit better. A lovely juxtaposition including a clip from sci-fi franchise Stargate was a nice nugget in which his talk was enhanced by the presentation, blending the comedy with the way in which it was presented in a more integrated way than just a funny clip followed by stand-up. More of that, please. His callbacks too rounded out the piece, adding depth and consideration.

Perhaps, like any relationship, it's not him, it's me. Many of the issues, video clips and political attack adverts would be familiar if you were an avid listener of, say, Andy Zaltzman and John Oliver's Bugle podcast. Or if you spend far, far too much time on the internet. For what it's worth, my companion hadn't seen any of these and laughed heartily. It suggests that, if you're not obsessed with Daily Show-style satire and just looking to be swept away on a tidal wave of American silliness, the rating could easily be bumped up to four stars.

This is obviously a passion project for McElroy, and one to be applauded, but I'd quite frankly love to see more of that cheeky, playful and charming - if low-key - comedy than Republican bashing. I'm sure it'd be a treat.

Erich McElroy is Presidential was previewed at The Crown and Two Chairmen on 2nd July 2013. It then ran from 14th to 19th August 2013 at the Camden Head, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Tottenham Court Road (Northern, Central)

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