Chris Forbes is talented, amusing and endearing – but none of the friends and acquaintances whom he asked to describe him in one word seemed to think so. Instead, they tossed him a series of labels ranging from the insulting to the bizarre, and he created a show about it.
It’s an interesting and original idea, allowing plenty of scope for humorous self- deprecation, as well as providing a framework to keep the performance moving along. The show is tied together very loosely by this thread – often going off on a tangent and not returning quite to where it left off – but is none the worse for it. Forbes has a natural, relaxed ease while on stage, and takes his time in coming to his point. He spent the first ten minutes of the show chatting amiably to members of the audience, gently ridiculing them to the delight of everyone in the room.
The first part of the show is fantastic, but it begins to slide from the midpoint. From the very beginning, Forbes links the labels that his friends and family put on him to the labels we all inadvertently give strangers every day. It’s a good point, but the drawn-out discussion of the judgemental nature of human beings becomes more tedious than funny.
At some points it feels like Forbes wants praise for pointing out the wrongs of stereotyping – as if he’s the only to have realised that racial profiling is unacceptable and wants to spread the news. This rumination on stereotypes becomes increasingly uncomfortable as Forbes attempts to preach political correctness while failing to practise it himself. For instance, despite recognising his own error in buying into racial profiling, he plays for laughs the trope of assuming that people are terrorists if they look like they're from the Middle East – without acknowledging that, actually, those who are the subjects of that prejudice may not find his insight new, interesting, or funny.
Quite apart from it being a bit trite, this adoption of the moral high-ground leads Forbes astray in other ways: he dives into convoluted explanations of simple points, leaving the audience struggling to understand what he means, let alone able to appreciate the punchlines. It also weakens the ending, as what began as a funny show finishes on a moral message that made me feel more like I was watching a motivational speaker than a stand-up comedian. A meaningful message can sometimes work beautifully when wrapped in comedy, but Forbes unfortunately misses the mark and finishes on a note that’s neither funny nor insightful.
This confusion mars the ending, but the show is nonetheless a good one: there are laugh-out-loud moments throughout, especially towards the start. The idea behind it is original, and Forbes beautifully engages his audience. It’s just a shame that this idea wasn’t paired with the quality of stand-up comedy you'd hope for.