Hilary Wardle

Edinburgh Fringe review: Kai Humphries, Stuff Protocol

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There’s a genuinely interesting section in Kai Humphries’ show where we’re encouraged to shout of the names of rappers.

When we do, he tells us their real names, almost all of which are subtly hilarious. There seems to be a rule: the tougher the rapper, the geekier their name. At least three members of the Wu Tang Clan sound like they should work in ASDA.

It’s this sort of well done audience participation that lift’s Humphries’ show out of three star territory. The material and underlying theme isn’t always that strong, but his delivery and fantastic way of building rapport transform fairly ordinary gags about his pale, eyebrowless face and ginger hair (when he wears a hat, he looks like a dying child), into jokes that raise a chuckle from even the dourest audience members.

It helps that Humphries is cheerfully smutty too, but in an endearing way that means that you wouldn’t necessarily be desperately embarrassed if you were sitting there with your nan. In fact, she’d probably insist on bringing the cheeky, sweet-natured Geordie stand-up home for tea.

The theme of Humphries’ show is protocol, politeness and following the rules. He gets us to question why we follow the rules, when should we break them and what happens when it turns out those rules are actually there for our own protection, which he illustrates with the stand-out gag of the night: a hysterical, incredibly bleak joke about a helicopter and a toddler that wouldn’t be repeatable here even if we didn’t want to spoil it for future audiences.

The protocol theme isn’t particularly strong, as if Humphries’ himself lost interest in it after submitting his show title to the powers that be. Interestingly, he’d wanted to call it ‘Fuck Protocol’, but protocol dictated that he couldn’t really use such a sweary title, which is why the show has such a strange name. Also, he’s not particularly consistent. Some jokes are uproarious, while others simply don’t work at all and leave the audience puzzled. When this happens, Humphries doesn’t move on quickly enough and we’re left with lulls in what would otherwise be a top quality show.

The weakness of the theme also doesn’t do the show any favours, although Humphries’ beefs it up by being continuously and reliably entertaining. He breaks up quite sweet anecdotes about his girlfriend with quite dark, inappropriate jokes that he then turns on their head again by being almost impossibly endearing and shaking his head at his own disgraceful behaviour, like a dog that can’t quite believe the smell that it’s just created.

On the whole, Humphries is a skilled comedian with a real gift of the gab and a dirty, cheeky, loveable charm that makes up for occasionally dropping the ball. His encyclopaedic knowledge of 90s rap is another selling point. Humphries has 99 problems but an unsatisfied audience ain’t one.


Date of live review: 12 August 2014 @ Gilded Balloon Sportsmans

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  • Asofwhen

    Likeable but needs to find something to say, otherwise will just be another bland fame-seeking wannabe who knows the right people to get on. Part of the North East conditioning system, Humphries success is hardly organic, and Punchdrunk’s success is based on inviting their friends who then invite theirs…and so on. The charity stuff doesn’t hurt either.

    One of the current comedians who find ripping into audience members as entertaining and skilful, perhaps?