Fringe REVIEW: Mark Bittlestone: Pity Laughs @The Warren

May 19, 2018


THIS is a show about being an orphan and being gay with the ratio of material about being parentless to jokes about anal sex being roughly 1:9. It has some great gags, and Mark Bittlestone certainly has a winning charm which gets the audience on board. But as a whole Pity Laughs perhaps lacks focus. At first it seems to be about a gay man battling his own homophobia. But as it progresses the jokes too often centre on typical stereotypes: for example there’s an extended skit about why gay men can’t play football (too busy planting honeysuckle on the pitch) which isn’t sharp enough to be taken as a critique on homophobic attitudes, and not quite funny enough to work just as the kind of joke we’re allowed to tell about ourselves.

But the parts of the show when Bittlestone hits his stride are magnificent. There’s a wonderfully rigged quiz which aims to find out if a straight member of the audience is actually gay. One of the multiple-choice answers contains a finely wrought bucolic fantasy involving wood nymphs and a sexually insatiable Ed Miliband. And if there’s a Fringe award for Best Joke it should probably go to Bittlestone’s heartfelt reason why he wouldn’t be able to perform his show in an orphanage.

In many respects Pity Laughs feels like what I’m sure it is: an early work from a young comic. It’s a very enjoyable hour and what it lacks in complexity it certainly makes up for in some heroically filthy punchlines. It’s clear Bittlestone is a talent to watch and I’d imagine with his next show – or possibly the one after – he could graduate to comedy’s premier league.

The show is on at The Warren on May 22 and May 24.

For more information and tickets click here.