Dan Antopolski is back at the Edinburgh Fringe after something of a hiatus. His return has been a few years in coming, with such distractions as becoming a dad, experiencing a separation, and a still raw-bereavement taking up his energies. But now he's back with his wordplay and poetry, and something of a new edge to his comedy.
Antopolski introduces himself well, with his recognisable buoyant energy. He even gets physically behind some of his punchlines, miming just how he would defend his daughters from a wolf attack to happy comic effect. He has a few good, polished impressions, which are silly yet at a standard you'd expect from such an experienced comedian, and I was fondly reminded of his affection for puns – which he peppers throughout the show, as if they were sometimes-odd chapter headings breaking up the narrative.
The narrative itself is, sadly, not an unfamiliar one, built around the breakdown of the relationship he had with his children's mother. What's remarkable, however, are the deeply personal observations of the cues to what was coming. Antopolski goes up a notch as he savours particular moments, describing things as mundane as eating an apple or perfunctory kisses with deliciously biting detail.
The story travels from break-up to therapy, wandering into a bit of politics along the way – though with an audience he knows already shares his perspective, those passages lack the depth and the sharpness of his personal story. It's the refusal to flinch away from his still- healing wounds that yields a rich seam of delightfully dark humour, and that's a characteristic that he takes great delight in informing us he shares with one of his daughters.
Overall though, the show doesn't feel even in quality. That's not to say the lighter material and wordplay isn't good; it just suffers in contrast to the bigger ideas. When he talks, for example, about "coming out" as having separated from his partner, the concept is both new and instantly recognisable – connecting like a dagger to your insides, yet sharply-written enough that your instant reaction is laughter.
Material about a new partner doesn't feel as deeply-mined, juxtaposing a blissful and isolated life which feels more as if it was created for the gags than the gags flowing from it. The imbalance in intensity falters again when Antopolski talks finally of his bereavement; the rawness of it hurts to see, and as much as he does have a lovely final word from his daughter, his pain is all too clear. It feels too soon.
So this is personal, it's cheeky, in parts it's even fondly lavatorial – and it shows that Dan Antopolski is in mid-transition from a good club comic, to someone who connects and entertains on a deeper and more impressive level. I can't wait to see what he does next.