Too painfully self-aware and skilful as comics to frame their identity struggles as typical millennial angst, early thirty-somethings Sean McLoughlin and Abigoliah Schamaun make their respective malaises seem idiosyncratic before arriving at broader conclusions about what they might mean for society. The demands of annually crafting a stand-up show of personal revelation with wider application naturally encourages a degree of contrivance. Even so, both of these acts at the Glasgow International Comedy Festival convince you of the significance of their personal epiphanies, eliciting considerable laughs from then exploring the bigger picture.
Abigoliah Schamaun, Blackfriars Basement, Glasgow ***
Sean McLoughlin, ARG @ Hug & Pint, Glasgow ****
Of the pair, McLoughlin’s show is the more surprising and satisfying. Declaring his hard-won personal contentment despite all of the twitchily intense evidence to the contrary, he is sardonically funny undermining his career and relationship, putting his life in disappointing relief against that of his hero Joseph Conrad and his namesake, the world’s most successful YouTube gamer. Fecklessly spending his day decomposing on his sofa with his phone, he’s baffled by the supposed gains of technological change.Ostensibly stand-alone observational routines about Virgin train toilets or wry tales like his Canadian fiancee sharing a name with Amazon’s artificially intelligent personal assistant, begin to slowly cohere into competing disquiet with the past and the future, as McLoughlin is caught between his resurgent Roman Catholic faith and a need to function in the modern world. Arriving at a thoroughly biblical understanding of tech giants like Facebook, it’s a persuasive analysis from someone who never looks less than awkward in his tight-fitting suit as he barks punchlines and discloses his dabbles with ketamine. With his lanky frame and additional quirk of avoiding eye contact with the audience, his gaze and emphases directed to the ceiling, as if desperately appealing to God, he’s more troubled street preacher than composed sage, and all the more entertaining for it.
Schamaun, by contrast, is rather more upfront, winningly engaging the crowd, being playful with preconceptions about her pink-haired, tattooed, fuller figure appearance and American accent, confounding and in some cases, confirming them.
Avowedly unfamiliar with imposter syndrome and chattily confident, the London-based American amusingly sets herself apart from uptight Brits. Rather brilliantly, she interprets the mainstream’s increasing appropriation of queer culture as a burden upon her, as if she’s some sort of overworked liaison between the two.
With her woke credentials established, not least through reference to her flamboyant boyfriend, she can deliver a routine about retaining politically incorrect words that were once commonplace in America, her tightrope-treading ability the match of anything by say, Chris Rock or Bill Burr, striving to be self-consciously edgy.
Her conclusions, linking grief and comfort eating, American firearms law, support for President Donald Trump and the Holocaust are jammed together in an overpowering finale, less structurally elegant and subtle than McLoughlin manages. But her gun observations in particular are damningly perceptive and very funny. - Jay Richardson