Review: Award-winning comedian John Kearns deserves a bigger crowd

The Garage's spring 2018 season - John KearnsPhoto: supplied by The Garage

The Garage's spring 2018 season - John KearnsPhoto: supplied by The Garage - Credit: supplied by The Garage

What more does John Kearns have to do to pull in a bigger crowd in Norwich?

Two years ago the double Edinburgh Comedy Award-winning Londoner brought his tonsure wig to the Garage, and had a 30-strong crowd in the palm of his hand.

I spent the next couple of weeks telling everyone how brilliant his act was.

Maybe I was the only one. As he observes at the start of his 2020 show, the size of the crowd hasn't changed. And it's an injustice as big as the false teeth he sports.

The problem - as he acknowledges - is that he's 'niche'.

So while the 70-minute show rises and falls between rapier observations, solid audience ribbing, and some genuine poignancy, it's all packaged in Kearns' ridiculous look.

It's a look some people clearly can't get past. But they really should.

His return to the city he once called home while at university sees him reflecting on life in his South London flat and the characters around him.

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It begins with him treating us to a screeching rendition of 'Oh What a Beautiful Mornin''. It's stupid, and silly, and people squirm and giggle as he belts it out.

The show is loose and bounces around between observations about staring at your ceiling - more interesting than looking out of your window, apparently - and outrage at Nigella Lawson cookery tips.

But it drags you back to core themes about the trials of life, what he would say to his younger self, and how his neighbour plays the violin - badly - to her tomatoes.

He stalks the stage, one minute shouting in a corner, the next slapping a chair as he blasts a concept, himself or the universe.

And it's brilliant. And you only stop laughing when he stings you with a touching piece of self-revelation.

He hints to the glass ceiling his career has hit, and how the BBC, in particular, have turned down his ideas.

It's clear why. You can't sum up the highs and lows of his show in a poster or soundbite - or review. You just have to be there.

And then tell as many people as you can.