COMEDY REVIEW: John Robertson’s The Dark Room @ The Stand Comedy Club, Newcastle (09.12.21) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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When I wrote up a preview of Robertson’s show and then went along, I thought I knew what I was in for – I was wrong. 

I expected the show to focus on The Dark Room itself, his interactive game that was a YouTube sensation that Robertson projected onto the screen for the audience to play along to, whilst he narrated. Instead, he engaged in ruthless grilling of every audience member which turned out to be the majority of his comedy act. 

No volunteer to the game went home empty handed, despite no one completing the game and winning the £1000 prize. Instead, audience members were diverted to the Table of Wonder, with prizes consisting of an exotic potato (a pineapple), a load of old video games and other damaged crap from CEX, some ham, and a mini-Jesus. There was also an addition of a hand mannequin that an audience member found on the street outside. The ham was the best prize; the winner did not simply receive his prize, it was thrown to him piece by piece while the audience sang Tequila, with a triumphant “Ham!” before it landed on the prize-winner’s face. 

Playing the rookie error of feeling safe in the back row, we were not, as Robertson exclaimed, “I will fuck with you in the second round!” And he did. When asked for a younger volunteer, he picked my friend, who was asked to participate in a game of minesweeper. After losing the game and being roasted about his name for about five minutes, he was asked “Do you like subway cookies?” and given the wrapper from Robertson’s snack for his prize. 

The night, which was streamed online (and that you can watch here), was full of avid fans. Robertson has lots of followers, who call themselves ‘Darren’. It was hilarious watching the “brainwashing” taking place as volunteers for the game lose themselves to the name. 

The fans, obviously familiar with the game, started chanting along to Robertson’s narrations, which I thought a bit strange at first, but by the end he had us all chanting “Ya die! Ya die! Ya die!”’ when the audience chose to surrender another volunteer to the game. If the game didn’t end someone’s play through, and Robertson thought they had done something wrong, he would leave it to the audience to decide if the player stayed or died, which rather ruthlessly, was always the latter.

The funniest joke of the night was when Robertson’s mic kept cutting off so he decided to just go with his lungs, or as he put it, “We will rely on theatre training… and the fact I’m pissed.” 

Though the night was full of bizarre moments, which might prove that last statement true! At one point, Robertson managed to turn the crowd into some sort of Stalin re-enactment. Simply from the Stalin prompt on the game, the place was chanting “There’s no place like Leningrad,” whilst top tapping like in The Wizard of Oz. 

The night ended in the whole audience breaking out into Sweet Caroline when Robertson demanded that we sing a song everybody knew, to which he hilariously replied, “I had no idea the greatest fucking treasure of Newcastle was Neil Diamond.”

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