Ivan Aristeguieta is a changed man, but he’s feeling conflicted. Having become divorced – the breakdown of his marriage being the subject of his last show Juithy – the passionate Venezuelan is now dating a vegetarian, something his red-blooded cultural values have struggled to accept.
Such is the driving force of Matador, a solid hour of warm, entertaining storytelling. Aristeguieta wrestles with these contradictions with an endearing energy, perfectly capturing the discombobulating effects of placing a bloodsport-obsessed heritage into a progressive, contemporary context. For a routine so outwardly conventional, there’s a deft weaving of threads (such as rants on bureaucracy, his cross-cultural upbringing and the importance of dance) that keeps this otherwise rowdy crowd engaged.
In spite of this smart structure, and Aristeguita’s brilliant reading of the room as he navigates his material, there’s a sense of limited range. While his experienced comic metronome allows him to deploy gags that are witty, thoughtful and skilfully timed, there’s a safeness to the content that lets down an excellently crafted set. It’s not entirely predictable – for every retreading of a stereotype or a joke about The Bachelor, there’s a slam-dunk about how good comedy can feel like murder. But Matador (perhaps appropriately) fails to kill the bull, despite its many taunts.