Molly Stewart

Latitude Festival comedy review: Liam Williams

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The Guardian’s favourite guy – or rather, as he keen to point out, a Guardian comedy reviewer’s favourite guy – Liam Williams set out an hour of pessimism and alternately self-hating and society-hating tirades in the Cabaret tent.

It is inescapable that William’s is the poster boy of cynical, pessimistic stand-up that swims about in big questions like ‘what am I doing with my life?’ In his Manchester International Festival web chat with The Guardian, he said outright that he struggles to write comedy that doesn’t come from the dark and gloomy waters of self-questioning.

Liam William’s new hour, previewed here, is called Bonfire Night – fitting for the disillusioned comedian questioning Great Britain’s enthusiasm for celebrating the date on which we failed to have a revolution: remember remember, the fifth of November, when everything stayed the same forever.

William’s isn’t, apparently ever, in the market for quick, smacking punchlines or obvious routes to a laugh (though does have a tendency to toy with familiarly meta conceits – he isn’t on Facebook because he’s not one of those people who needs to present an audience with the minutiae of his life: ‘thanks for coming to see my third hour-long show’ etc.). But his lengthy build-ups do pay off, particularly a violent, strangely fantastical epic in which he and an ex-girlfriend batter an evil wizard.

Really quite separate from his skill as a comedy writer, William’s also has a penchant for the pleasingly poetic – pricking a poached egg and the ‘yolk bleeding yellow out onto the plate’ – an accessory to his delicate jokes that pulls his whole act into something very original.

Whether or not this sort of slow, bleak comedy translates all that well to the lazy tents of Latitude festival is uncertain (though you’d think an audience here would be almost exclusively filled with the kind of person that hangs ‘comedian of 2014’ around William’s neck in a review; these long build-ups and sighing epiphanies better suit a small setting without muggy heat and tired audience members.

Regardless, the crowd enjoyed it; rightly so.

Date of live review: Saturday 18 July 2015 @ Henham Park, Suffolk.