Review: Wil Anderson, Soho Theatre

Wil Anderson

Smart must mean something different in Australia. When I heard that Wil Anderson was a smart Australian comedian I was expecting someone with attitude, someone who had some new comedic insights into our place on the planet. Not someone who did jokes about the difference between cats and dogs. Just because you introduce a canine v feline routine by saying that you know it is well-trodden ground doesn't make you a Stewart Lee-style meta-comedian.

However…lob your prejudices out of the window and as a straightforward observational storyteller Wil Anderson is a pretty funny guy. Particularly if you are Australian. And, judging by his packed opening night at the Soho Theatre there are enough homesick ex-pats in London to fill this venue until June 8. Though – and I know this is a bit rich coming from a Brit – boy do they like to get up in the middle of a gig and top up their drinks, which can occasionally disrupt a routine.

Anderson certainly has plenty to talk about. There is no particular theme to GoodWil, it is more just a fast-paced affable canter through things that have happened to him, from having his car stolen to ID theft to getting, hey ladies, osteoarthritis at just 39 – and becoming the poster boy for a disease usually associated with wrinklies ("they can't go on a march"). Nothing earth-shakingly original about his riff on the things that irritate him – inappropriate use of mobile phones? who could have guessed? But I did like his thought that just because you get one awful disease that doesn't make you immune to getting others simultaneously too. Having been diagnosed with his hip problem he then woke with a nasty lump on his neck. 

Inevitably Anderson's winning, easy-going style prompts comparisons with other Australian comedians. He is not as angry as Brendon Burns, not quite as cheery as Adam Hills, but there are echoes of both of them in his delivery and smile. Any rants come with a smile. Occasionally he gets political, getting a big laugh from the audience by mocking Aussies who complain about immigrants taking their jobs when in reality immigrants only take their jobs because Aussies are too feckless to do them themselves. But mainly this is a slick, easy, friendly feelgood set that never makes the audience awkward, even when it is about osteoarthritis.

The Soho Theatre has a great reputation for booking innovative acts that approach stand-up as an art rather than something that just occupies an hour of your evening. Anderson is more of a regular entertainer who is very skilful at his job and I guess Soho has to think about selling tickets occasionally. If putting him on means they can afford to champion some more esoteric acts then I'm all for Anderson. And if the bar stocks Foster's I'm pretty sure Soho's bank balance is going to do particularly well over the next two weeks.

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