Kwame Asante: Teenage Heartblob
Kwame Asante’s superb debut got him nominated for best newcomer at last year’s Fringe, but this follow-up isn’t up to the same standard. Teenage Heartblob is about weight issues –Asante’s own struggles, particularly when he was younger, and also, as a doctor as well as a comedian, his dealings with patients who have had similar problems.
The odd thing about this show is that it’s oddly short of jokes – a startling omission for a comedian, let alone a good one like Asante. There are large stretches of explanation and scene-setting that pass by with only occasional punchlines. What we do get is an interesting and touching portrait of his younger life in London, with his parents working desperately long hours in the NHS and a Czech au pair a fixture in the Asante household (which leads to a good gag about young Asante not seeing the comic potential of this setup).
His section on being both a minority in England and a minority in Ghana – where he would go for his summer holidays – also feels like an untapped resource, genuinely fascinating though it is. He has a nice barbecue analogy to describe his place in the world, though I’m sure a funnier analogy is out there.
There is good material lurking in this show and it comes during his bits on chasing after joggers who are couples, and explaining his lactose intolerance to another student. They don’t get what they deserve in terms of laughs, though, because as an audience we’re not really primed for them – Asante hasn’t particularly created a comic environment, as if he’s still in matter-of-fact doctor mode instead of let’s-have-a-laugh comedian mode.
As a result, when he goes into a routine, you have to flick a mental switch, and that’s not easy to do. Similarly, a section where he has a conversation with his own stomach about retaining fat may have gone down better if the show had been sold better, although this part was wordy anyway.
Other material is more so-so, such as when he analyses being called a ‘chubby doctor’ by an older patent, and the couple who find some rather fruity side-effects from being prescribed steroids. You get the feeling neither of these would have made the cut for his debut hour.
A case of the ‘difficult second show’, then, but hey, that happens.