Will Smith review - SkinnyFest 2

Article by Jonathan Liew | 14 Aug 2006
Comfortable middle-class humour for comfortable middle-class people. The largely sweater-wearing crowd were in tittering hysterics over Smith's many foibles, such as his blithe disregard of youth culture. He's simply making fun of himself, rather than Blair and the war on Iraq, like he's supposed to – The Guardian, August 2005, probably.

It's so easy to get snobbish about Will Smith's brand of comedy. He aspires to nothing more than a gentle dig at his own inadequacies, and, ooh, perhaps popular culture too. But the effect of watching him is a little like being in a fight you thought you won and wondering why you're bruised and bleeding all over. He probes a subject so gently and inoffensively, but knows instinctively what buttons to push to leave an audience simultaneously massaging their jawbones and not fully understanding why.

His PowerPoint presentations, shamelessly amateurish and expertly timed, create the most memorable and overtly amusing moments. The larger theme here, though, is the notion of cool, which he attempts first to define and then to put into practice. Along the way, yes, he scoffs at youth culture and ekes some laughs out of his failed sex life. But where Smith really betrays his comedic intelligence is in deconstructing the entire artifice of cool. It's all about an individual sense of style, a sense of danger, and forming original opinions, he appears to be saying, before clinically exploding these concepts in the closing video sequence, where he turns up for a date wearing an eye patch, puts his hand in a candle and then tells her the film Sideways is racist.

The very antithesis of the monotonous smut that's peddled by some at this time of year, Smith demands to be seen. This is a complete and flawless performance by a man at the very top of his game, who never loses the capacity to surprise you. And in a way, isn't that rather cool?
Will Smith - How To Be Cool, Assembly Rooms, until August 27 (not 15), 20:55, £12.50/£11.50 (£11.50/£10.50).