WHEN he opens with a few satirical swipes at TV commissioning, you can sense the audience struggling to get a read on Mark Stephenson. ***
The Royal Mile Tavern (Venue 159)
Star rating: * * *
Expressionless for most of this free show, his dry delivery takes a bit of tuning into, but his intelligence and nuanced wit gradually become apparent.
There are some neat, skewed observations in his recollections of temping in London’s financial heartland, but he really drew me in with a routine about his father’s “World’s Greatest Dad” mug. Allowing the full, discomforting truth to slowly dawn, it’s just one instance of the unsettled mind he implies lurking behind his humour.
A comprehensive assessment of media coverage of Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony demands too much set-up for too little pay-off, in contrast to acute observations on the first computers in primary schools, or First World War cannon fodder’s only means of expressing themselves.
He’s confident enough to pull off the most contrived routine about the Kennedy assassination and a smart bit of wordplay around Middle Eastern tension, exploiting terrible historical events for sharp laughs. But his cynicism about the comedy industry is offset by a steadily emerging vulnerability that sits oddly at the end of this highly promising newcomer’s hour.
• Until 25 August. Today 2:45pm.