In the queue for Dan Antopolski's show, a man is overheard briefing his companion on the delights that await her. “He won the Dave best joke competition,” he explains, “with the one about the hedgehogs.” While it's true he picked up the TV channel's Funniest Joke of the Fringe award in 2009, focusing on this dubious accolade seems like an odd way of selling as seasoned a performer as Antopolski. But what else is there to say? There must be an explanation for the lauded comedian having never made a more substantial impact on the public consciousness.
If this is the case, there are no signs of it in the initial half of Return of the Dan Antopolski, his first Fringe show in years. During his absence he separated from the mother of his children, and this tumultuous process is recounted to brilliantly cutting effect. His verbose commentary is unflinching and intense, while his trademark surrealism makes the venom more palatable.
Just as this threatens to be one of the year's stand-out comedy sets, however, the star goes for a cheap laugh at the expense of the trans community. Having played the part of an ignorant bigot, he reverts back to confessional mode and clumsily tacks on some sentimental musing concerning the death of a close relative. The show ends up a mess in terms of structure and tone, and a bad taste lingers in our mouths. If only he'd just told us the one about the hedgehogs and hadn't sought our approval quite so cravenly.