Ben Crellin is a confrontational comic. He’s possibly not the sort of comedian you’d bring your grandparents to. But this doesn’t detract from the fact he’s a very talented and insightful comic, but good lord. He sure did shoot some truth bullets.
He comes out onto the stage in a visually confrontational way, but he starts off almost gently, particularly in contrast to the barrage we experience over the next 55 minutes. Ben thinks he has no sacred cows. He does, but we’ll get to that shortly. He talks rapidly and aggressively and politically. He makes no bones about it either. This is what he cares about, and this is what he will joke about.
And I think it’s that caring which I like. He’s clearly very passionate about these things and he’s trying to weave a comedic show AND make a point. It’s a rarity. In New Zealand I can only really think of Jeremy Elwood who tries to make his gags also be loaded with his opinions. Where Elwood might display a modicum of tolerance for a counter-view, Crellin will not. He knows best and fuck you. There are shades of Bill Hicks within Crellin, particularly in his misanthropic view of the world. He hates everyone. In fact there are some gags that run pretty closely to Hicks’ famous rant on Hitler being right, just an underachiever.
This all isn’t to say that Ben’s stuff isn’t funny. He’s got some great gear. There are huge laughs from the crowd periodically. But there are also large tracts where he loses us a bit. Particularly around his rape material. Now I’m not going to rehash my perspectives on this, they have already been very well canvassed. But what I will say is that Crellin handled this better than I feared. He’s made some comments both on this blog and in other places where he strongly advocates for a comedian’s right to say whatever he wants. And he makes this point in his show as well, using rape material as the banner he walks under in this march. The irony of this is that Crellin spends the entire time he has on stage telling us what is wrong with the world as he sees it and that we need to make the changes he is suggesting all the while rejecting the idea that someone else can tell him what to say. Irony.
The crowd rewards Crellin when his material is strong, and stays silent when it’s not. His rape stuff is largely met with silence however he handles paedophilia in an almost beautiful way and gets great laughs out of the crowd.
A lot of his rage he tries to mask with self-deprecation, but you can sense that it’s almost always there. Ben is the sort of comic who gives the impression of permanently being on the edge of a nervous-breakdown.
All in all it was a really enjoyable show. Ben is a clever, funny man. He is an idealogue, yes, but I don’t think you have to agree with him to laugh with him. This show is a brave show. He’s trying something that is exceedingly hard to do but I think he does it very very well.
Cavern Club, Wellington 14-17 May, 10:00pm
Groups (8+) $20.00