Comedy Club Cambodia December Review: Aidan Killian

It was all arranged at the last minute when comic Aidan Killian – who some reviewer had dubbed “Ireland’s answer to Bill Hicks” – visited a friend in Phnom Penh, who got in touch with Khmer 440’s resident poet Ned Kelly, who phoned Donald Trump, and last night’s Comedy Club Cambodia show was borne.

But timing and the secret of great comedy aside, it was always going to be a hard gig to pull off, living up to the brilliance of Glenn Wool last month. And it wasn’t helped by the move of venue from Pontoon to Doors, an uber-trendy tapas and cocktail bar, north of Wat Phnom, even if it did have the same banging tunes from DJ Bree.

But it wasn’t just that. Sometimes, like with Wool, you need a weaker comedian to make the next one look good. And when there’s only one, the pressure is on and you’ve got to perform – or at least hone your material to the audience.

Unfortunately, jokes about the bleakness of austerity-hit Ireland seemed a million miles away from booming Asia. And a comic that ever utters “that deserves a clap” should never get one. To be fair, he wasn’t given the best start, plagued by a dodgy sound system that could barely be heard at the back of the room.

What could be heard at the back of the room was a cacophony of chat that swept over the audience like a humour-poisoning miasma, and your man had to keep prompting the crowd into an amusing barrage of “Hey you at the back – shut the fuck up!”

As I say, it couldn’t have been an easy gig for him. But I don’t know if there is some rule that Irish comedians should always bang on endlessly about the Emerald Isle in lilting, lyrical tones as though it’s some paradisiacal universe no-one’s ever been to. “Where are you from?” he asks a guy called Scotty who gets picked every time. “Liverpool.” “Oh, the second capital of Ireland.”

Then he’s on to wooing Irish women. “Do you know the old Irish expression – laughter is the way to a woman’s clitoris?” I’m half expecting: “You can take the woman out of Cork…” The howls of laughter, or at least mild chuckling, are again blighted by the chat from the back. Then he asks what the technical term for blowjob is. “Fellatio” they shout. “Fellatio! But people who use that word don’t get head…”

He’s back on after they’ve fiddled with the sound, explaining that he used to be an investment banker for Bear Stearns – describing his job as “copy, paste, enter” repeat – but quit six months before it all went tits up. There follows a piece about a banker being chased by a bank for missed mortgage payments. But on his terms, as he subjects the underlings to the same absurd, personal questions and piped music you get when phoning a bank.

It was political activist ranting the flavour of Mark Thomas. It wasn’t a gag fest. The crowd were supposed to chuckle along, and clap occasionally – which most of them did. Then he was bending over to simulate how Ireland was being shagged up the arse by the IMF and ECB. The last time I was in Dublin, taxi drivers kept gloating about how the Celtic Tiger was roaring and the UK was fucked because it wasn’t in the Euro. Now Ireland’s screwed, their faces must be as green as leprechaun’s piss. Killian’s main message seemed to be that debt wasn’t real, money was fake, and if the whole world should rise up and refuse to pay, what could the child-torturing reptiles do about it?

Then he puts on the accent of a lothario, pretending to be the world’s greatest lover: “I can taste the semen of my brother on your lips. And that’s love.” He’s quickly back to Ireland, mortgages and repossessions, followed by a yarn about how he was “kidnapped” by the police for sawing off a wheel clamp on his car with an angle grinder. “What’s your date of birth?” “I don’t know, I was too young at the time.” “I suppose you think you’re some kind of comedian?” “Yes.”

He told some chestnuts. “How was your last blowjob?” he asks Scotty. “What did it taste like?” And “I’m hung like Jesus,” he says, stretching his arms as if on a cross. His final piece was an audience rendition of the piped music we’re forced to listen to when phoning banks.

He wasn’t helped at all by the venue, the sound system, the noise from the back, and the crossed-arms-and-entertain-me attitude of some of the 150 or so-strong tapas munchers. Only a seasoned professional could have pulled off an hour-long set confronted by that – especially as he was doing it for free – and I wish I could have written a better review.

Perhaps it was Wool’s hilarious, varied show last month. In the never-failing comic tradition of taking the piss out of the town you’re in, Wool had scribbled notes in the back of a taxi from Ho Chi Minh City and thrown in some well-observed material about Cambodia and gold-toothed paedophiles in Hawaiian shirts.

Killian had a quick Gary Glitter put down to a would-be heckler, and a little skit about how if you want to feel good about yourself go to Thailand and get chatted up by bar girls. “You butterfly!” one of them tells him. In mock outrage, he replies: “I’m not a butterfly – I’m a human being!”

Yes it was free, as the MC in his penguin suit kept telling us. But no amount of repetition was going to make it any funnier. Even in a Dutch accent. Lord Penh promised to fly in a list of “international headliners” for next month’s comedy night. Let’s hope Stewart Lee’s on holiday in SE Asia.

Alex Watts

Top photo by Lord Penh

Alex writes the excellent Chef Sandwich blog and is on Twitter. He is also author of the best-selling food book ‘Down and Out In Padstow and London’ available via Amazon, Foyles and Waterstones.

2 thoughts on “Comedy Club Cambodia December Review: Aidan Killian

  1. Ned Reply

    I think these are all fair criticisms, though I guess I thought that Aidan’s “ON” material was really pretty good even if it wasn’t tailored to SE Asia 2012 (generally his stuff on the economy and the absurdities we all accept at face value etc.) I can see how a more rehearsed kind of 1 man show themed to those topics, delivered to the right audience in the right setting, by Mr. Killian, would be brilliant. I’d rather we’d gotten something more along those lines, but as the review mentions, there were some things going on outside the performer’s control as well.

    Doors is a very nice venue with a really nice stage and the requisite fancy sound and light equipment up on that stage for the world to see. That’s great, but they need to bring someone in who definitely knows how to run those things (I can think of a couple dozen people offhand, including myself) and they need to take the goddamn mixing board off of the wall near the drum kit. Whose idea was that? To hang the board on the wall behind the drum kit? It smacks of Khmer kookiness. You don’t put those there. If you’re reading this, manager of Doors: I will come, free of charge, and show you where to set it up. (Not joking.)

    Next time around the show will not be FREE. Therefore, those tapas munching fuckers whose inability to modulate the volume levels of their own voices and who thereby left me filled with disgust and loathing for them … Will not be in attendance, because cunts don’t pay a cover charge to talk while somebody tries to perform. At least not around here. So expect that problem to disappear straight away. And I’m sure the sound system will be in good working order by then with or without my assistance. And I’m also sure that Lord Penh was absolutely correct when he predicted that January would bring internationally recognized touring comics to Cambodia via airplane. Who? Dunno yet, but that’s part of the fun.

    Every single show can’t be Glenn Wool, but this show was worth the price of admission (SERIOUSLY FOLKS, I GOT A MILLION OF ‘EM, POW!) and I’d say worth more than that because Aidan’s a talented guy – who’s still developing as a performer – and though this show might not have been ideal, it was still the best thing going in PP that night for sure and he did have some great jokes in there. I hope he comes back, flexes his comedy muscles, and kicks our asses next time, because I know he’s got it in him.

  2. Slappadabass Reply

    Having only seen very little of Killian’s stand-up before Sunday night, I wasn’t sure whether the Bill Hicks tag was a bit unfair, a possible burden, or just a general nod towards Killian’s politically charged, anti-establishment material.

    I’d say, though, that he stood up pretty well overall, swiftly and professionally neutralizing the problems that threatened to hinder his act. Quick on his feet, he immediately addressed some minor technical issues concerning the microphone and spotlight (“I’m very demanding as a comic. That big, weird, annoying, fucking blue spotlight thing shining on me right now… one of my demands”). That, along with hushing the noisy eaters at the back, visibly relaxed the crowd somewhat — were we not taught as children never to eat with our mouths full? Never is that more true than when at a comedy show.

    I enjoyed the show nevertheless and it just goes to show that cover charges are a good thing…

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