Laughter in the Steam Room

Scott Agnew has all the right attributes, but you may find your attention wandering as the show wears on

Scott Agnew: Tales of the Sauna is a purely stand-up comedy routine. It is certainly funny, and has great moments, but it may fail to hold your attention throughout the performance. It is packed full of information about a culture many may not be too familiar with, that of the the gay male sauna. Agnew has a delightful stage presence though. He makes you feel like you’d love to sit, have a beer, and just chat with him after the show. He weaves intricate stories with a nice delivery, but one might find them redundant as the hour wears on. However, it does feel like Agnew is being brutally honest about personal subjects such as sex and break-ups.

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Agnew warned the audience about his Scottish accent from the very, and said that if it got too thick to let him know. This was never a problem, but he was able to mimic other accents perfectly. His American accent was spot on, and when he was doing the voices of the characters within his stories it was an absolute delight. This is always a plus in a stand-up set. 

At other times it almost felt like you were listening to the narration of a National Geographic documentary, because of the way he describes the setting and experiences of his time in the sauna. This is in no way meant as an insult. It actually brought forth a level of ingenuity behind the whole thing. It was great fun hearing him describe this sort of subculture found in among the steam the saunas he frequented. The rich details delivered by Agnew submerse the imagination into the world he describes.  He gives this detailed description complete with funny anecdotes and some fantastically humorous imagery. This is certainly derived from his superb storytelling abilities. 

Agnew is great with that brand of brutally honest, self-deprecating comedy. He has a very awkward yet endearing stage presence. He will charm the pants off the audience, while coming off as a bit shy. It is almost as if, as soon as he gets off stage, he turns into a massive introvert, but lots of the time this are the best type of comedian! He seemed to get all his thoughts off his chest in front of the audience, as if he was in a therapy session or a confessional booth, and we were there on the listening end. There was a welcomed feeling that both sides were benefiting from Agnew’s performance, and it is always nice when a performer make the audience feel needed!

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One will also enjoy his honesty as he goes through a discussion of the many different aspects of relationships. His straightforward ranting on break-ups, sex, and emotional intimacy comes as a breath of fresh air. It is always nice to have a comedian who you can feel isn’t just putting on a his or her “funny mask,” but is instead getting down to the nitty-gritty truth of things. 

However, after thirty or forty minutes you might find your attention beginning to wander. It is hard to tell if this is because the material is getting weaker or if one has just grown bored with the whole thing. It seems that the material doesn’t really get any better or worse, but once you have caught on to the schtick there is not a whole lot more to be said or done.  

In the end, Scot Agnew is amiable, engaging stage presence, but his performance would greatly benefit from more diverse material. He has the charisma and the right type of personality to do a really great stand-up routine, but he simply needs to branch out on his material to keep the audience’s attention for more than thirty minute. He has the honesty, the presence, the storytelling abilities, or in other words, all the right materials to be a wonderful entertainer, he simply needs some cohesive force behind his act. This is definitely a show worth seeing at Fringe 2013, especially if you are a fan of stand-up comedy. Check it out if it sounds like it’s up your alley, and leave us some comments letting us know how you enjoyed it!

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– Mason Parker, Prague Film & Theater Center

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