Normally Abnormal is a prime example of the fascinating (if sometimes uneasy) overlapping of highly personal, vulnerable, issue-based comedy with the young white male stereotype of stand-up. Chawner guides his audience through his past nine years’ experience of anorexia with a charmingly atypical ‘laddishness’ which invites interrogation of our cultural discomfiture with the sick, skinny, or ‘weak’ male. 

Chawner defies the stereotype of the anorexic – the skeletal teenage girl – whilst his comedy remains grounded in conventional expectations for the male body. Although he wants us to laugh at the reactions people have had to his illness – parents, friends, colleagues – the piece still works to highlight how we struggle to open dialogue around male sickness. Do cultural pressures – around male emotionality, physicality, self-confidence – deny men the space to talk about mental illness, eating disorders, self-harm or self-hate? As Chawner relays, so long as suicide is the most common cause of death for men under forty, it remains crucial that we make room for such conversations. (HM)

NORMALLY ABNORMAL, Dave Chawner, Laughing Horse @ The Counting House, until Aug 30th. Unfortunately, this venue is not wheelchair accessible.

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