Nic Wright

Review: Jamie Kilstein (w. Jonathan Pelham) – Newcastle Stand

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Immediately engaging audiences with incredibly personal, deprecating tales of (unsolicited) facial surgery and an indiscriminate number of nipples, support act Jonathan Pelham doesn’t waste any time with a soft sell.

Darting between tales of tongue-tied adolescence and observational cracks about text speak, his jokes rarely fail to land, but it’s the material of a more delicate, potentially humiliating nature that marks Pelham out. Taking advantage of his amiable stage presence to lull the crowd into a false sense of security, Pelham closes his set with a chancy twist about a prom date – which pays off in spades.  He hasn’t quite mastered the art of the segue, hopping abruptly from set piece to set piece like a CD skipping a track, but with such impressive material, Pelham will no doubt be an act to watch out for in the future.

Headliner Jamie Kilstein – the reason we’re all here – takes the stage uncertainly, a million miles from the nightmarish lost member of Dirty Sanchez his posters portray him as. An intriguing concoction of fiery leftist zeal and self-flagellation, Kilstein immediately tears through right-on issues such as gay marriage, rape culture, veganism and er… cats, with his vitriolic rants sporadically peppered with daddy-issue side-swipes.

Kilstein’s material consists largely of vicious and shrewdly constructed tirades against the American establishment, in which frantic, breathless rants invoke the embittered spectre of Doug Stanhope, with a poetic breakneck delivery that almost turns into a rap.

Though chiefly socially motivated, he also showcases some deeply personal gags, laying out his lonely childhood and, quite literally, paralyzing anxieties. Well-aware of his polarizing qualities, this peek into Kilstein’s black-sheep complex proves endearing, narrowly preventing a descent into political dogma.

You do get the feeling that Kilstein is used to preaching to the choir; his attacks on the religious, conservative culture of his homeland are hardly as earth-shattering as some of his press would have you believe. But Kilstein does acknowledge his own smug, back-slapping liberalism – or ‘leftie bullshit’ as he puts it.

Perhaps in an effort to dampen the weight of his political agenda, Kilstein’s set is interleaved with more accessible portions. Occasionally, he unpredictably slips into recognisable observational material, peddling stories about sourcing pornography in the pre-digital world that seem as old as time, or at least as old as dial-up internet. A few pop-culture references also offer easy laughs, but again those laughs are substantial.

A comic who leads with how many career opportunities his militant liberalism has destroyed – one who reels off death threats with incredulous relish – is always going to provoke comment on his content. But the bottom line is Jamie Kilstein is a comedian – and there is no arguing with the fact that he is blisteringly funny. Charmingly frenetic, urgent and unquestionably earnest, Kilstein is a searingly entertaining spectacle.