Internet sensation Daniel Howell, affectionately known by his former YouTube handle danisnotonfire by a legion of emo teenagers-turned-young adults, returned to his old stomping ground of Manchester for an hour and half of stand-up comedy, interactive onstage challenges, and something of an uplifting pep talk towards the end.
We’re All Doomed, the confrontational and apocalyptic title of Howell’s first live show in four years, and first solo tour ever, is apt. The show explores the everyday concerns of the average person – from social media and celebrity culture to the climate crisis and political turmoil, but with a dark and idiosyncratic sense of humour. Be sure to check our my interview with Daniel.
Howell, however, opens the show with a musical number, ironically called ‘Everything’s Fine’ – something I endure with bated breath. Dressed head-to-toe in black (obviously) and erupting from a pyramid-like staircase several feet above his audience, Dan is greeted by cheers but it’s hard not to wince. It’s camp and cringey but the fans seem to love it. Luckily, things do improve steadily from here.
We’re All Doomed is a show that thrives on audience participation. Interactive elements, including a game of ‘madlibs’ and one where the audience acts as a sort of mediator in sending prolific political figures and celebrities to hell, are highlights of the show, and the audience’s disdain for Jared Leto is particularly funny.
However, this is a show that relies largely on an audience that are ‘in the know’ – inside jokes and references to videos from a decade ago inadvertently exclude the less-seasoned spectator. Though for a figure with several million social media followers, it appears the majority of the audience do indeed get it.
A large screen projects a sort of pinwheel of icons, all indicating a particular issue which will be discussed in a different segment of the show. Daniel deals deftly with heavy subject matter, sprinkling in just the right amount of humour. Comments on the current political situation in the UK are kept brief, as he touches on rising energy costs, homelessness, and Liz Truss’ cabinet.
Howell’s penchant for self-aware comedy and ability to not take himself too seriously shine through, and it is these qualities that make him such an endearing personality and engaging performer. He pokes fun at the scrutiny and speculation that surrounded his relationship with friend and former flatmate Phil Lester (also known as AmazingPhil), as the YouTuber’s image flashes up on the big screen unexpectedly, causing the crowd to cheer.
The show works best though when Daniel speaks from experience. With several years’ worth of oversharing under his belt (see: YouTube), Howell’s confessional comedy, and particularly his discussions of mental health and sexuality, stand out. It’s brilliant to see him appear so comfortable and confident in himself, as well as using his platform to share an important message of self-acceptance and open a conversation about mental health.
Fans and followers of Daniel Howell will fall in love with We’re All Doomed; it’s an amalgamation of all the things that make him such a beloved internet personality. For those unfamiliar with Howell, don’t go in anticipating a stand-up show on the level of Joe Lycett or Romesh Ranganathan. But do expect an evening of light-hearted entertainment that will leave you pleasantly surprised and uplifted by the end.
Daniel Howell is currently on the North American leg of We’re All Doomed and will take the tour to Australia, New Zealand, and Europe (including more UK dates) in 2023.