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Jonny Pelham: Optimism Over Despair

Words: Alex Grunberg

Jonny Pelham takes us on a both dark and funny journey as he reflects on his previous show, delving into the reactions of audiences and critics, while reckoning with his own regrets. In this confessional routine, Pelham engages the audience with anecdotes about relationships and therapy, honestly presents the unsatisfying inconclusiveness of trauma, and considers the riskiness of sharing genuinely “edgy” opinions. 

Pelham mixes the absurd with the tragic as he invites you to laugh at the inappropriate and uncomfortable moments as much as the lighter takes, and the uncomfortable moments can get quite dark. However, he fully embraces his weirdness and the enthusiastic audience I was a part of was happy and willing to meet him at his weirdness level (much to Pelham’s delighted and somewhat confused surprise). 

This retrospective show is a very unique approach to a comedy special, tying neatly into his previous work but not alienating anyone who may be new to his material. Pelham pulls no punches and crosses lines you did not think could be crossed (his strong opinions about vegetarianism lead to some very “interesting” imagery as he delves into the morals of various animal cruelties). 

He rolls with the hecklers and matches the audience’s energy while always staying true to the story he’s come to tell. 

Jonny Pelham: Optimism Over Despair
Pleasance Courtyard, Upstairs
11-13, 15-27 Aug


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