‘Cult Figure’. That’s a phrase you want to avoid in conversation if you can. It’s the kind of comment that often comes up in conversations that involve other such bollock topics as ‘selling out’ and ‘yes, but what is fame, I mean really?’ As far as I can tell, cult artefacts, be they films, books, bands, people, whatever, are just things that are unpopular. That’s the only qualification for being a cult artefact these days. Create something that’s just good enough to appeal to a niche market of people but too obscure, controversial, plan shit for the majority and, congratulations, you have now achieved cult status! Dying early/spectacularly before potential is fulfilled is also another safe(ish) bet.
But it’s bullshit, and it’s fuelled by those fuckwits who believe in the love and worship of these cult artefacts. That’s why the word used is cult. If I hear about a cult film I’ll happy bound along to the nearest cinema and absorb it’s wonderful message because it’s cult, but if I hear about a religious cult forming nearby I’ll start storing supplies and preparing for an all out war. Why? The word refers to the same thing in both cases: sad obsessive nutjobs that have to pigeon-hole everything and are so fucking socially inept and alone that they have to further distance themselves from people by loving something no one else does. Cos somehow that makes them special *. These people are just snobbish cunts.
This belief that being loved by many is indicative of being shit is the last resort* of people still clinging to a fantasy of egotistical exceptionality who believe that their tastes are special or superior in some way and they can fuck off right now. Of course in a lot of cases popularity=shit is true. The reason that the non-existent mainstream is so feared by these people is because there appear to be so many popular things that are just plain bad*. The News for example. Why people spend all their time watching such a dull and depressing show I’ll never know…
On the other hand you have immensely popular stuff like the Beatles which is loved by many and lives on because it’s actually good, no matter how much mass appeal it has. Being a top celebrity isn’t necessarily indicative of selling out or appealing to the lowest common denominator. People like Jimmy Carr and Ricky Gervais come under a lot of attack simply because they’re successful comedians. Fair enough, I think Carr’s an annoying cunt but that’s because I don’t like his act. Whether you like him or not is purely a matter of taste to do with his style, not how popular he is.
I’ve heard people say they don’t like The Mighty Boosh anymore since it became popular. It’s such an inane point that I won’t dwell on it, suffice to say that the vast majority of people in the Fringe would donate their brain for the chance to play one of the big venues, get that elusive television deal, or be noticed for just being fucking great by loads of people. You can’t get jealous when someone actually makes it, it just means your tastes aren’t in sync with the majority.
One man who doesn’t seem to have any interest in all this is Daniel Kitson, an enigma wrapped up in an enema of a man if ever there was one. He certainly qualifies for cult status, despite being hailed repeatedly as the future of comedy he’s shunned television and the big venues he could easily fill in favour of remaining firmly out of the limelight and playing small gigs to whoever turns up. Either Daniel Kitson doesn’t like people or he’s being a little bit arrogant, clinging onto what he believes is integrity by refusing to ‘sell out’.
It doesn’t really matter which one’s the answer because for as long as Daniel Kitson stays as good as he is at the moment he will always be streaks ahead of any other performer. You don’t garner quite so good a reputation by staying out of the public eye unless you’re exceptional at what you do. And that’s Kitson from start to finish. There are aspects to his performance that appear arrogant. At many times during his show It’s the Fireworks Talking at the Stand Comedy Club, Kitson makes reference to his perceived brilliance and maverick comedy stylings. Taken out of context it could sound like a man blowing his own ginormous ego trumpet. In reality it’s a man who is honest to the core. Self-deprecation is the tactic of choice for many comedians who want to connect with their audience but so often it comes across as false or immodest, a tactic used to garner false sympathy from the audience. Kitson instead just goes for the honesty through and through. He is acutely aware of himself and the other factors that make up humans, as all the best observational comics are, but he presents the material in a way that separates him from the rest of the pack.
Bumbling about the stage with his overgrown beard and glasses that make his eyes look like giant pool balls, he calmly and fluidly works his way through material that only very occasionally strays into traditional observational stand up. His pace and vocabulary are nothing short of inspiring. He can rattle through material that leaps from laugh out loud comment to genuinely insightful and touching within two lines, never losing the audience and always saying something interesting, developing a story or referencing back to previous material. There’s no time wasted, unsurprising for a man with quite a severe stutter. He’ll quite happily stop, go back and deconstruct a gag or just break down the imperceptible barriers that normally exist between comedian and audience because he has the natural ability and confidence to do it. Sounds easy but it’s not. Often it can make the comedian sound like an insecure yet cocky prick. Coming from Kitson it sounds like your man on the inside telling you how it works.
Within seconds I was hypnotised, following his tightly structured theme, feeling that I was actually witnessing something special here, something I had never experienced before, a novel and powerful talent and I was the only one there who knew it. Daniel Kitson was my mate and we were sitting in the pub together while he told me a few brilliant stories.
But maybe that’s the cult in me speaking. I’d heard so much about Daniel Kitson before I went to see him that I just knew he’d be good no matter what. Everything about the evening, from Kitson’s reputation as someone who shunned the big venues (and with good reason to, the small and dingy Stand Comedy Club atmosphere suits his stand up infinitely more than a multi-seater venue) and fame, to the feeling that all of us who were packed into that dark room knew something no one else at the Fringe did, all reeked of ‘cult’. It makes it hard to be objective but fukkit, Daniel Kitson is the greatest comedian ever. Ever. Without question.
He also does secret gigs around Edinburgh, or so I’ve heard. I’m hopefully going to one tonight, if you hear about one definitely try and go. It is something special.