A DARK and emotional set from Sean McLoughlin at the Lowry delivered a barrel of laughs. In ‘Whatever It Takes, the 28-year-old whisks the audience through his very own annus horribilis, in which his flat flooded, parents divorced, relationship ended and belief in God faltered. Too depressing to be funny? Max Merrill begs to differ…

McLoughlin bares all in front of what the usher described as ‘an intimate audience’. ‘Whatever It Takes’ is soul-searching tale of misfortune delivered with brutal honesty, sharp wit, and a cheeky grin.

‘My act is entertaining, it’s just not entertainment’ he quips and compares it to watching a dog and a rat fighting in a car park. In fact, ‘Whatever It Takes’ is a multidimensional performance in which its protagonist delves into his anguish, tackles tricky topics such as his own mental health and faith, and makes the audience laugh whilst sharing in his pain.

The act is not for the faint-hearted, as McLoughlin rarely holds back in a set made up of black and blue comedy. He ruthlessly dissects his flaws and shortcomings, yet almost always emerges from the depths of misery with a punchline or a witty aside, somewhat reminiscent of American greats Louis CK and Richard Pryor. After all, he is half-American and jokes that he would have more success performing profane punchlines with an American accent.

McLoughlin has a natural delivery and way with words which balances out his constant teetering on the precipice of self-deprecation. Occasionally, he doesn’t get the balance right and questions himself where the audience did not question him.

In the opening 20 minutes, the comedian builds up a rapport with the audience in a surprisingly assured manner. Throughout the show, McLoughlin resorts back to a running joke on his lack of material which, though very effective initially, should have been abandoned by the second half.

His confident brash delivery is juxtaposed by a hunched over posture, which he says he is tackling through the use of a ‘back bra’ during a scathing anecdote on the failing of his last relationship.

This prompts perhaps one of the most effective moments of the evening, when McLoughlin says his former partner is in the audience. The 50-odd punters laugh nervously, attempting to gauge whether he is telling the truth.

His greatest achievement is that this is more than just ‘laugh at my pain’ comedy. McLoughlin gets big laughs and poignant moments without sacrificing one for the other. The first half was better and yours truly did not need the intermission. In the second half, McLoughlin journeyed further into the depths of darkness and got less laughs but the same amount of attention.

He is funny without forcing it and just about gets it right with his whirlwind mixture of confidence, anxiety, sarcasm, and rage.

Go see this comedian before he has to tone it down for telly.

By: Max Merrill

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