Will Franken is a rare breed of character comedian: one who shows no affection for his creations whatsoever. Each begins life as a recognisable grotesque, but is callously twisted into something so abstract and strange that we find ourselves unable to empathise with them on any level. They go from being people to abstract concepts, serving purely as vehicles for inspired, satirical monologues and bitter flights of fancy. Loose and undefined, he tunes in and out of them throughout his performance, mining laughs from something more primal than mere recognition.
During an opening skit that sees him enact an interview between a pretentious arts correspondent and a hack catchphrase comedian, Franken sets out his stall as a talent by attacking the artificiality of showbusiness from within. His ire broadens with each sketch, and by the end of the show he's impotently shaken his fist at all forms of art, media, medicine, religion and progress.
He can be playful, as during a surreal conference call between a businessman and two pre-recorded blowhards, and utterly incendiary: an intentionally provocative Goodfellas parody sending shockwaves through the room. Often he's both at once. But whenever the comedian strays into areas that good taste tells us he shouldn't, we're immediately reminded of his low status. Franken doesn't ever punch down. This out-of-breath, sweaty man seems in thrall to some greater comic power.