Our February Cog night saw us back at an old staple, Soho Theatre, for an evening of stand-up comedy. ‘Alfie Brown: Sensitive Man 2.0’, promised us an introspective look at what it means to be sensitive in the modern world. Nick shares his thoughts.
Welcomed back into the comfortable arms of the Soho Theatre bar, we took the opportunity to celebrate the arrival of our new Cog team members, Nazma and Lily. Our Soho Theatre evenings always start with the delights of the bustling crowd in the theatre bar, all excited for an evening’s entertainment. We were immensely delighted to sample Soho Theatre’s house beer, Neon Lager, which was the perfect starter to an evening of belly laughs.
Competing for our viewership this evening was, ‘The Final Approach’ by Thom Jordan and the now Olivier Award nominated ‘Age is a Feeling’. Congratulations Haley McGee. For tonight, however, we headed downstairs for ‘Alfie Brown: Sensitive Man 2.0’. After a national tour and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, he was back at the Soho Theatre with a show reboot and an update on his life following the Covid lockdown.
You may not always agree, but you must laugh...
We were pre-warned by Alfie himself that this evening’s content would challenge us, his phrase accurately sums up our experience.
Entering the stage to warm applause, Alfie confidently embraced us with a seemingly boyish charm that put us at ease. That is where the innocence stopped.
Never avoiding difficult topics he bulldozed straight into them, Alfie shared deeply personal stories about his life. Throwing us in at the deep end with a story of a deal he made with his partner, that would allow her to have a third child if he could have a one-night stand. A deal was struck and his partner soon fell pregnant… just in time for a global pandemic, thwarting any of his plans for that romantic tryst.
Alfie started incredibly strong, with epic choreographed rants about his hatred for 20-something adults cockily carrying around “wads of time”. What a waste he seethes. He cleverly balances difficult topics such as mental health. Complaining that his own recent bipolar diagnosis was lost in a sea of men claiming to have depression. His poetic flourishes and self-deprecating punch lines were enough to get the audience onside and laughing along with him.
The evening was certainly a tale of two halves. Towards the end of his set, Alfie began to tackle more polarizing issues, such as white privilege and the seemingly popular figure of Greta Thunberg. His jokes clearly divided the crowd, as the raucous laughter trailed off to a devoted smaller section of the crowd still very much on his side.
This didn’t go unnoticed by Alfie who provided little asides to the crowd when he felt the tension bubble to the surface. Even engaging with our group, who were unfortunate enough to land themselves on the front row, seeking validation and flattery that he was in fact still very funny.
So what are my final thoughts on the evening? Well, there was lots to like about Alfie Brown’s set. Lots of carefully crafted stories with tonnes of self-deprecating humour, making him the butt of his own jokes. Perhaps some of his views and opinions were not to everyone’s taste, resulting in him losing a few people in the audience as he danced the fine line of controversy.
I suppose that was his aim along, to push our understanding of what it means to be truly sensitive.
Illustration by Tess Farlow for our Cultural Calendar.