This hilarious show was packed with dark humour, moments of optimism and tonnes of laughs.
Most of us have at least heard of Daniel Howell (also known by his old YouTube name Dan Is Not On Fire). He graced our phone and computer screens for years until, in 2018, he went silent. One year later, to the delight of his fans, he reappeared under the branding Daniel Howell and came out as gay. Last night, he visited Southampton to deliver his We Are All Doomed tour. I loved watching Howell’s channel as a teenager and was very excited to see him live. However, I was also slightly nervous that he wouldn’t be as funny as I remembered, or it would feel awkward being in person rather than through a screen. However, the show was hilarious and was made even better by being live and in person.
I have never been to a comedy gig before, having only attended concerts, festivals and theatre in the past but I am glad that We Are All Doomed was my debut. It was much longer than I expected, being used to seeing a band for around an hour, this 2-hour performance was a welcome surprise.
At the start of the show, Howell asked the audience not to post any spoilers about it as there are more dates to come, with some as far away as 2023. I will try to keep spoilers to an absolute minimum but, of course, in a review, a few may slip in.
Outside the O2 Guildhall Southampton, the atmosphere was great. There was a little confusion surrounding which queues to join but everyone was just so excited that this didn’t matter. I had never been to the Guildhall but was really excited to see what it was like inside. The building was lovely with big, ancient Greek style columns and high ceilings. When we were seated, the atmosphere was electric. The rock and pop music was pumping, spotlights and spiral shaped lights flew around the room and everyone was just very excited for the show to begin. Around 20 minutes before it began, Howell spoke to the audience through speakers reminding them to turn their phones off before he sang a song. This caused suspense and anticipation within the audience, an emotion felt throughout the show. Everything from moments of pounding music to Howell running offstage to change costumes and even the interval that many mistook for the end of the show, built a sense of anticipation. The mystery and suspense worked well with the overall theme of the show, the uncertainty of life and the end of the world.
The tech for the show, particularly the lighting, was stunning. A large ring light with a smaller, fabric covered circle in the middle, was suspended in the centre of the stage. This also caused mystery. My friend and I spent ages trying to work out what it would be used for. Would Howell rip through the fabric? Bounce off of it like a trampoline? You’ll have to go to the tour to find out but spoiler alert, we were wrong. The ring light changed colour throughout the show along with the spotlights, strip lights and various other lighting elements. The use of screens was also very clever. With a dial graphic scrolling through the various topics Howell would discuss, showing videos, photos and displaying the matching graphics to the various games he played with the audience. It felt very reminiscent of a video displayed on screen during a YouTube video. Also, the use of the giant steps leading up to the circle made the show more dynamic. Allowing different levels or different members of the audience to see Howell but also just made the set more interesting than someone walking up and down a stage.
As for the content, I thought it was the perfect mix of dark humour, audience participation and odd but nicely uplifting and hopeful moments for a show called We Are All Doomed. I’ll try not to give too much away but I think it’s important to discuss. The use of audience participation was great. The audience’s responses when asked to shout out things like household objects or celebrity names for the madlibs game were hilarious. However, a few times, things seemed to be misheard. One activity involved the audience shouting either number one or two to reveal what was behind one of two doors. My friend and I definitely heard the audience shout number 1 but Howell responded as if we had said number 2. Of course, this could have simply been because he heard differently from the stage or that the graphics were pre-programmed. Either way, this was a minor issue and I really loved the audience participation elements of the show. He discussed many topics relevant to the audience, from homosexuality to climate change and doom scrolling to the rise of robots. Each topic was discussed with Howell’s classic dark humour but, in the end, the show ended with a moving yet inspirational message to keep going even when the world seems doomed.
Overall, I thought the show was cleverly crafted with great audience participation elements, fun games and topics and amazing tech and set design. The script was funny but Howell’s natural ability for humour really shone through when reacting to callouts from the audiences and bringing what they had said back into the show long after it had been uttered. Howell said that he aimed to give everyone “one great night” and one great night it was.