David Trent: Spontaneous Comedian ★★★

Lyle Brennan - Fest Mag, 18th August 2012

As an unlikely primary school teacher, David Trent has endured 16 years of his superiors urging him to bring his lessons “to life.” For tonight’s class, the solution is a multimedia mash-up of scrawled flashcards and offbeat video snippets. A grand assertion sets up this much-hyped Edinburgh debut: “Comedy is the only truly spontaneous art form.” But with a rigid, pre-programmed format, Trent debunks this premise in no time.

From the moment he comes roaring and stomping on, his lines tie up with what’s on screen, and at first it seems this irony will lead into a meditation on the white lies that make “authentic” standup tick. For the most part, though, Trent just uses it to frame bastardised footage from the weirder, dirtier corners of the web.

He throws his all into every routine. When it works, it heightens pleasingly gauche, quick-cut sequences on a rockstar’s struggle to master the ‘guitar spin’ or Chris Rock’s attempt at midwifery. But when it comes to his weaker ideas—particularly a trite number about God’s Facebook—Trent oversells them with that same zeal, and the laughs peter out while he’s still hammering the point home.

A stale persona doesn’t help matters: the braggart failing to mask his insecurities; the charmless man making clammy-palmed advances on his audience. Ultimately, the fact that Trent’s self-conscious script anticipates a chilly response—by pointing out his reliance on gimmicks over more honest techniques—comes as little compensation.

This debut boasts ambition and vigour, incorporating some neat surprises and an intriguing mix of high-concept and low-brow. Yet, on this evidence, the fuss over Trent is less than wholly justified.