JIM BOWEN Super, smashing, great 0000
Jim Bowen is like shoulder pads and loafers: all over us in the 80s and now nowhere to be seen. Aside from a sparkling turn on The Weakest Link recently, where he beat Anne at her own game with a series of self- deprecating gags, Mr Bowen’s wit has been a scarce resource. He’s kept himself busy, of course, earning a crust on the radio, cameo slots on Phoenix Nights and the ‘Amarillo’ video with another long-lost icon, Mr Blobby.
But when it came to writing his Fringe show, Bowen knew where to turn. ‘No jokes, just tales,’ he announces on arrival, though he can’t resist sharing a few, before setting off down Bullseye memory lane. If you spent the 19805 down a black hole, waiting to be born, or in a nation other than Britain, Bullseye will be an unknown concept, making this show pretty much redundant. For everyone else, it was once an intrinsic part of family life. As synonymous with Sunday as roast dinner and closed shops.
Part general knowledge quiz, part darts game, the show spawned a handful of catchphrases, from Bowen’s Fringe show title (‘You Can’t Beat a Bit of Bully’) to the tragic denouement: ‘Here’s what you could have won.’ But, we are shocked to discover, Bowen never actually said ‘super, smashing, great’; it just found its way into modern vernacular, much like Michael Caine’s equally mythical ‘not a lot of people know that’.
Such revelations are what this show is made of. Backstage stories about drunk contestants, camp directors (could have done without the wrist gesture, Jim) and overweight darts players are at best hilarious, at the very least interesting, and all told in the old-school style cultivated by Bowen et al on the Working Man’s Club circuit. Paying homage to some of his comedic peers, Bowen reminisces about the halcyon days ‘before it all went PC’. Mothers-in-law and the Welsh seem to be the only target now.
In fact, it’s hard to dislike Bowen generally. When he briefly loses his thread during what he terms ‘a senior moment’ (the man is 67 after all) the front row is quick to help, rather than heckle. From the middle-aged folk who remember Bowen’s Comedians days, to those who equate Sunday Bullseye with part of childhood, we’re all here to hail the elder statesman of TV quiz shows. (Kelly Apter)
I Jong/eurs, 0870 787 0707, until 28 Aug. 7pm, 539—274 (CS—£72).
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28 THE LIST FESTIVAL MAGAZINE 18—25 Aug 200:3
THE DEFIANT THOMAS BROTHERS
Slick tricks from observational duo 0...
Like some kind of Indiana Jones and the Comedy Show of Doom. there's one thing that every visitor to the Fringe wants to do and that's to uncover a hitherto unexposed gem. The Defiant Thomas Brothers is one of those. While the queues snake through the Assembly Rooms up to the other rooms. the Brothers command a mere smattering of inquisitive punters. but this does not dampen their enthuSiasm. The Chicago duo (one short and black. the other long and white) successfully combine character and musical comedy — two forms which are swinging rapidly back into vogue at the moment — With minimal props and fuss into a speedy. but considered sketch show.
Unafraid to unceremoniously mount and roger assumed taboos. they approach often brutal topics with unflinching glee. The murderous cab passenger. the bereaved mamma's boy and even the paedophile get done over but such is the sweetness and slickness of their delivery that they get away with pretty much everything. Some of their more complex Americanisms may not have made the trip to Edinburgh completely intact but this is a minor gripe in their sea of quality gags. May the queues be bulging till the month is through.
(Mark Robertson) I Assembly Rooms, 226 2428. until 29 Aug, 6. 75pm. £7 i—Ei2 ($70—27 7i.
Chaotic Canadian with a laid back wit 0000
Even the most experienced raconteurs seldom look so comfortable in the spotlight as this Canadian master of Charm. At one point. Whitehead looks around at his captive audience before breaking into his gleeful. beyish smile and confiding with flawless timing: 'l broke my flatmate's Vibrator' It is this willingness to use his ability to create chaos — whether being caught illegally
importing beef into the United States or playing online poker in the nude — and to make himself the butt of his laid back mockery that makes the audience immediater warm to his relaxed stoner dude attitude.
Skipping without pause or even connection from one anecdote to the next with a certain toothiness that reminds you of Zach Braff. Whitehead's knack for pacing his tales is excellent. There's not much improvisation here and the effortlessness with which the comedian (recently shorn of those impressively long dreadlocksi delivers his material rules out any spontaneity. but with stories this well scripted. it's easy not to care.
Combine such writing prowess With a laid back. smiley bloke who looks like he's genuinely pleased to be here and the overall effect is akin to having drinks with a hilarious friend yOU haven't seen for years. Watch him now. before he sorts his life out. (Katy McAulay)
I Edinburgh Comedy Room, The Tron, 226 0000. unti/ 28 Aug. 9pm, [TS—£39 tf7—E8i.
PHIL NICHOL Dry humping and non-sequiturs OOOO
Phil Nichol's stand-up gets abidineg described as demented or deranged. ‘He's a crazy guy.‘ witnesses avow. ‘What a loony.‘ they opine. But is he really cuckoo? Could anyone exhibit such unflappable. luminous talent if they were truly bonkers? His set. Near/y Gay, grew from a contretemps a few years ago between Nichol and fellow comedian Scott Capurro. Nichol was performing his maniacal signature tune 'The Only Gay Eskimo' to which Capurro took grievous offence. aCCLising the Canadian of homophobia. Indignant at first. Nichol then wondered whether he might really be. underneath all the flambOyance. a bigot.
Cue an abSurd and extremely funny odyssey of self-discovery in which Nichol dry-humps his Irish girlfriend's father. breaks a hairdressers heart. injures his own penis and is laughed at for several months by Australian comic Brendon Burns. The trademark musical non-sequiturs are there too. though less prominently than in the past: an acoustic-metal paean to Rohypnol and a lament for miserable clowns.
Nichol's thermonuclear stage presence is so intense as to elude description. Give him any room and any crowd and he'll Win them over