• Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024

Fringe 2023: Alistair Barrie: ‘Woke in Progress’

ByFreddy Lowe

Aug 8, 2023
Alistair Barrie

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Alistair Barrie’s Woke in Progress is an unmet delight of comedy, and everyone should go and see it this Fringe.  One is inundated with “everyone should see this” Fringe recommendations, but this is a case of no exaggeration.  Barrie’s routine is about as good as it gets: genuine, down-to-earth, with the right mix of heartwarming and cynical – and utterly, utterly hilarious.

Those interested in wokeness will be particularly interested.  The blurb of the flyer says it all:

“Alistair Barrie wasn’t planning on coming to the Fringe this year, but then the Conservative Party decided to play musical chairs in Downing Street.  Liz Truss blamed her downfall on WOKE culture, and if you agree, this probably isn’t the show for you.”

Yes – if you believe that wokeness is stifling freedom of thought and speech (rightly or otherwise) and that “one just can’t say anything these days”, Barrie quite clearly disagrees.  He will smash that belief faster than Liz Truss smashed the economy.  “To be woke,” he insists, “is simply love for your fellow man – or woman,” he adds, before pre-empting the expected reaction: “I can just hear already – ‘ooh, is he going to mention the transgender issue?’ – just fucking get over it.

It’s that kind of comedy show where one tries one’s hardest not to let the jokes slip out of memory.  Comedy is a necessarily fleeting and fast-paced art – but Barrie is so good that one almost wishes one could rewind him.  The jokes are gloriously anti-Tory, and gloriously pro the importance of laughing when times are rough.  He ended his routine with the observation (from his years of experience touring the world) that Britain has the single best comedy circuit globally.  Why?  “Because everything’s shit.”

(Imagine a comedian telling a story about getting his appointment on the time he booked it, having arrived via the prompt and reliable train service!)

His comments on Brexit are especially astute, and I couldn’t help agreeing with every word.  “Of course, we voted Brexit because we wanted to ‘take back control’ – it now takes two and a half hours to get through the airport.  I was in a really long queue once; I’m sure only 48% of us were pissed off.” 

Strikes are another theme, primarily because he thinks the French are much better at it than we are. The French are asked to do ten minutes overtime, and a riot nearly takes place (“my kind of country,” he sighs), whereas we had a bare-faced liar for a Prime Minister, and yet our government postponed any retribution because “there was a party which took place that he said didn’t take place – but let’s not jump to conclusions”.

His jokes outside of politics are about family life and being a father.  He comes across as a truly wonderful, compassionate man whose sole purpose is cracking jokes to make people happy (despite those jokes’ brutal honesty about his child’s Nativity play and “pretending it’s not shit!”). 

Frankly, even those who disagree with some of his views should attend: comedy exists to humble us by pointing out how ridiculous everything is, and that’s exactly what Barrie does.  That has value for spectators across the political spectrum.  Kind, liberal, and a true Leftie, he delivers Fringe comedy as it should be. 

‘Alistair Barrie: Woke in Progress’ runs from 6-19 August.  Tickets are available here.

Image “Alistair Barrie – Glastonbury Festival 2019 crop 02” by Edwardx is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

By Freddy Lowe

Former Literature Editor Writer and Editor for the 2023 Edinburgh Fringe Writer and Editor for the 2023 Edinburgh International Book Festival