Brandon Wardell, Soho Theater – American Comics Soar

Brandon Wardell is a huge social media star – he has a large following on Twitter and Instagram, YouTube and TikTok – and has appeared in the past as a support for fellow Millennial Bo Burnham. And now he’s doing a short tour at the Soho Theater.

Wardell begins by asking who in the audience had heard of him before buying tickets, and those who hadn’t; the night I saw the show he was evenly split between the two groups and he seemed disappointed. It’s a fair enough question for an American comedian making his first run in the UK to ask, but, with him telling us to laugh harder, it felt the need. Later in the show, he asked one of the people who had never heard of him why he was there. “Because the show I was going to see was canceled.” That the honest answer elicited the biggest laugh of the hour says it all.

Wardell takes a meandering approach to his comedy, jumping from topic to topic and often ending a section without a punchline, or skipping around on a topic he talked about earlier. He dispels the idea that “comedians are modern philosophers” – yeah – and he flirts with being a bad boy when he mentions girlfriends, pedophilia or going to see the disgraced comedian Louis CK. His output is: “I’m doing a character!” It might offer rich material, but no, as soon as he gets on the subject, we take another route – although there are a clever gag or two: “Do you ever jerk off to something on Instagram and report it immediately? ?”

He speaks fondly of Bernie Sanders and mentions the right-wing “Let’s go Brandon!” meme, the latter of which only makes sense if you know the details of American politics. He also takes shots at James Corden (reading the piece correctly this time, but a bit of context as to why he doesn’t like it would be fun to hear) and Jerry Seinfeld; he makes the wrong impression of the multi-millionaire who makes jokes about the cost of things, but who’s to say Wardell wouldn’t do the same in the same position?

The show – disjointed and uneven – seems woefully under-prepared. It’s almost as if Wardell was driving it.

Daniel K. Denny