JOHNNY VEGAS 18 not a comedian: he’s a morbidly obese. dank—skinned and darkly driven comedy undertaker. furiously hammering the final nail into the coffin of ob- so-droll 'observational' stand-up.
The Johnny Vegas Show is a relentless. carefully paced. stream-of—consciousncss. strictly scripted. gentle. bludgeoning. all- singing. some-dancing. confessional cabaret of good. honest entertainment. Not comedy. There is also a strong element of handicraft.
Vegas‘s PR team has. smartly. kept him out
of the focus of the hype-hungry eyes of
London audiences. opting instead for two sell-
‘Do you know what it's like when the class bully comes up to you and says, "I'm gonna kill you" — and all you can do is sing?’ Johnny Vegas
out preview shows in Manchester. which were played to a bizarre combination of two-thirds bellowing belly—laughs and a final fifteen minutes of virtuoso pottery. Vegas appeared at Edinburgh comedy club The Stand earlier this year. but is an Edinburgh Festival virgin.
He hails from St Helen’s — home of
Pilkington Glass and Rick Astley. was called a ‘comedy genius’ by (‘ovnzolmlitzt/t. has a degree in three-dimensional art. and is an entertainer. Not a comedian.
The character schtick goes as follows: Vegas was a working-men‘s club superstar in the 70s. did the down-and-out thing in the 80s. and is making a determined comeback in the 90s.
‘What I do on stt ge ‘But it’s only an exagLy
is a character.’ he says. ‘ration of me. A lot of it
is autobiographical. Like I’ll do this bit about coming home as a kid and finding my father skinning my pet rabbit in the kitchen. I’ve had people come up to me afterwards and say, “How do you think up stuff like that?”
‘The answer is that it actually happened to me. Simple as that. I’m not trying to exercise my demons or anything. I talk about stuff like that because I think it’s funny.’
The act give Vegas room for sly references to hackneyed comedian interview conventions, particularly the dusty old blather about using comedy at school as a defence mechanism to avoid being beaten up. ‘I was never the class comic.’ he says. ‘I was the class crooner. Do you know what it’s like when the bully comes up to you and says, “I’m gonna kill you” — and all you can do is sing‘?’
And yes. he is a trained potter, having run away from home after mistaking a craft tent for the circus. ‘You’ve no idea what it’s like being me.’ he says. ‘You can’t relate to me. You weren’t kicked out of the house, as a kid, for saying. "Dad — when I grow up, I wanna be a potter.” But when you’re walking in a field. it‘s amazing to think: “Right now, I’m standing on the potential for 5000 teapots.” ’
At Vegas’s Gilded Balloon shows, you’ll have the opportunity to view an exhibition of his pottery. and. at the end of the performance, he‘ll be taking requests from the audience ("l’eapotl Milkjug! Ashtrayl’).
Like I said — not a comedian; an enter- tainer. Doesn‘t do ‘jokes’. Good with his throat. hands. feet. Bit of a thinker. too: ‘Passion is a football pitch. And I’m a sexual striker. You‘re stood up back defending your ego. (let tip front and take a shot. If you don’t shoot. you can’t score. And as for your friend with you — you’ve got to accept it: God wants him fora goalie.’ (AL)
The Johnny Vegas Show (Fringe) Johnny Vegas, Gilded Balloon Studio Theatre (Venue 38), Edinburgh, 0131 226 2151, 8-30 Aug (not 11, 18, 28) 10.45pm, £7.50 (£6.50).
BEING OF INDIAN descent. though Californian by nature, Arj Barker has straight black hair which when cut into a short fringe makes him look a bit like Spock. ‘I couldn’t get angry with the barber because l don’t have any emotions.’ he quips.
lt’s stardate 15 July, 1997. and the San Francisco-based stand-up is preparing to journey to Edinburgh for the first time. As a frequent visitor to Europe though, he has clocked up plenty of air miles, which means. inevitably. jokes about flying. Not exactly original, but he does manage to squeeze some new laughs out of well-mined territory in his show Arj Barker’s Letter To America.
In fact, travel is something of a repeating riff through Barker’s act. For anyone who has ridden on London’s underground the ‘mind the gap? warning usually provokes a snigger; Barker manages to stretch the joke to about ten minutes without it snapping on him. He plays the outsider, and Barker‘s Edinburgh show will use the framing device of writing a letter to the folks back home.
‘It sets up the importance of tne not being from there, and all the hilarity that could ensure from that,’ he drawls. ‘There are a lot of jokes about being American and having to adjust to being in Britain. which takes some getting used to. Americans are kind of happy, and it’s not that ' the British aren’t happy but they are a bit more cynical.’
More ironic than cyncial, Barker has been described as a twentysomething slacker comedian, and indeed his biog lists skills as: ‘guitar, blues harmonica, snowboarding, driving’. One of those accomplishments is used in an impression of an ambulance siren. but I’m not saying which. (EG)
Ari Barker’s Letter To America (Fringe) Pleasance (Venue 33), Edinburgh. 0131 556 6550, 8—30 Aug (not 12, 25, 26), 8.30pm, £SI£6.50I£7.50 (£5.50/£6.50).
8—14 Aug 1997 THE usr19