David Trent: Spontaneous Comedian ★★★★

Brian Logan - The Guardian, 9th August 2012

“Standup is the only artform that can’t be contrived,” David Trent tells himself in his debut fringe hour Spontaneous Comedian. That’s the paradox: live comedy requires rigorous preparation to look as if it’s off-the-cuff. Tonight, armed with a projector, a computer and a bellowing demeanour that recalls Nick Helm (in whose backing band he also performs), Trent makes that contradiction his own. His multimedia show is not for purists – YouTube provides much of the material, and the punchlines are screened, not spoken. But Trent ringleads it with daft bellicosity, and it’s both funny and tightly put together.

It’s got personality, too – albeit a disturbing one. Trent is a primary school teacher, so here’s hoping his kids’ mummies and daddies don’t catch this tasteless-tending-towards-pornographic set, which might raise questions at the next PTA meeting. He’s also a happy family man, offsetting what otherwise resembles the nerdy noodlings of a bachelor with too much spare time. I’m thinking of the multiple clips of the guitarist from rock band At the Drive-In failing to perform a “guitar swing”, or The X Factor excerpts designed to make an inane TV show look even more inane (it works).

In among all this – there’s also a droll demo of the media’s emotional exploitation of Sigur Rós’s track Hoppípolla – Trent plays games with the idea of spontaneity. Is a PowerPoint comic like him less “live” than a normal standup? Does feigning spontaneity make comedians liars? Trent has no interest in answering these questions; he’s too busy undermining the good-news story about comedian Chris Rock cracking jokes to help a woman in labour. But they add an intriguing dimension to a swaggering debut from Trent, a double act with a Dell Studio 17 that will live long in the random-access memory.