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They are three excellent comics who, you would hope, could surely each tour under their own name. Or maybe not, as Guildford’s 1,000-seat G Live venue is only about a third full.
But Canadians Stewart Francis, Craig Campbell and Glenn Wool exude a vibe that this isn’t all ‘aboot’ the money. The Lumberjacks is the Edinburgh show that launched them all on to the UK scene 16 years ago, and the revival feels like a chance for three mates to hang out on the road, an antidote to the isolation of solo touring. That camaraderie injects a warmth into the whole show.
Francis breaks, or at least slightly chips, his usual deadpan to compere. At the head of the show, he chats with the audience, but although badinage is not his his strong suit, there is a lot of affection for him as he pads between the quirky one-liners with which he made his reputation. He stresses the Canadian-ness of this show – although the comics’ nationality is secondary to their talent – and tries out a few newer puns, with mixed effect.
When he returns to for the second half, though, he presents a ‘greatest hits’ package of his quips that are both delightfully quirky and magnificently efficient. Each is so concise, his routine is like the wittiest Twitter feed you ever read... though for him 140 characters would be an epic. And you would never get the full effect of his Chipmunk voice, if not live. Exquisite stuff.
Wool starts with a reprisal of a gag he first did 16 years ago, showing he was sharp even then. However at least half of his set is much newer material, taking advantage of the ‘safety in numbers’ of touring with a line-up. The whole show’s not hung on his name, so he can mess about with it without fear – which does lead him to be a little too laid back (to follow a stereotypical Canadian trait) to smash every line hard.
Yet there’s some great stuff here, as he resumes his normal status as a stoner-philosopher, with special emphasis on the world’s religions. It’s a common comic territory, but Wool approaches the subject with affectionate curiosity, approaching faith to be like an odd little animal he wants to prod and play with, not quite figuring out how it works. He’s not setting out to be offensive, just puckish with the big issues.
Other than religion, a main theme is the over-reactive language used by the self-important: you’re not ‘bullied’ if someone takes issue with you; you don’t ‘suffer’ a minor inconvenience; and a jobsworth casually using words like ‘abuse’ demeans the real victims. It’s a good point, but more importantly he makes it with hilarity.
And lest you think this makes it sound like a weighty set... Wool is also the creator of some perfectly silly puns, of which he’s rightly super-proud.
He is probably the least famous of the trio. His ‘I don’t know who you are, either’ aside to the audience certainly striking a chord. But there will probably me more folk seeking him out after tonight.
After a cute three-handed sketch to launch the second half, comes Craig Campbell.
He’s often been called the Grizzly Adams of stand-up – and with his wild hair, rugged beard and outdoorsman mentality, you can see why that sticks. But the essence of his humour is how he fails to live up to that machismo image.
He thinks he’s rock-and-roll, but give him ‘push-button morphine’ in a hospital bed, and he becomes a helpless child. He’s hapless when attacked by birds, as described in a wonderfully slapstick routine about an ‘attack duck’, and can’t surf or even show a visitor around his native British Columbia without making a fool of himself.
One thing he is good at, though, is compelling storytelling, spinning yarns of his humiliation like the finest campfire raconteur.
Egged on by a member of the audience, he ends with a rather graphic description of an Amsterdam sex party – which he’s keen to make sure we’re all complicit in sharing, just to deflect any backlash to the inevitable bad taste. Yet while the subject matter is unpalatable, this is not shock comedy, as it’s his human, vulnerable reaction to the depravity he sees that’s funny.
The Lumberjacks is an irresistible mix of comedians, three skilful practitioners with very different styles offering a mix of smart, stupid, self-deprecating, social commentary with puns, anecdotes and even bursts of song. This has to be Canada’s greatest export since maple syrup.
|Date of live review: Saturday 11th May, '13|
Review by Steve Bennett
Sunday 17th Apr, '11- Brighton Komedia
Sunday 25th Jul, '10-
Friday 18th Jan, '08-
Show - Edinburgh Fringe 2008 -
Show - Edinburgh Fringe 2007 -
Show - Edinburgh Fringe 2002 -
Show - Edinburgh Fringe 2003 -
Show - Edinburgh Fringe 2004 -
Show - Edinburgh Fringe 2005 -
Craig took to the stage in his usual casual attire - shorts in November! in the Highland Capital at the Ironworks Inverness. Looking like a Mountain Man on vacation from the Rockies,on his way to Hawaii! via Inverness. Audience was responsive to him from the start to his brand of humour - anecdotal, with plenty of laughs throughout. His interactive banter and his amiable Canadian manner was a winning combination for those who came out on a cold November evening to witness his talent for comedy.
Absolutely brilliant!! saw him last night in Leicester, my wife never laughs out loud at comedy, and she was laughing, a very funny man, will definitely want to see him again
Oh my God. Maybe last night was an exception. I saw him at the Laughter Lounge in Dublin last night. Really liked him a lot at first. He chowed down a heckler, which was fair enough. After that, he kept screaming and shouting his jokes to the point where I could feel a headache coming on (I rarely get headaches) and my boyfriend nudged me because he had enough as well. Somehow, he just lost the audience after the heckler. When a couple in the front row were whispering to each other, he stopped the show and rapidly lost his temper after that. He said "Right, let's have an audience purge!". So anyone who didn't like it, could now leave. Not exaggerating, half the audience walked out at that point. He just stood there on the stage picking on the various people walking - calling them fat, ugly, stupid etc. Someone even threw an apple at him at one point. So it didn't go very well at all! He was the headline act and the evening had been going very well up until then. Have to confess, I had never heard of him before, but I won't be going out of my way to see him again.
Saw Craig on Saturday at The Stand and he was fantastic. Made me laughed til I cried!
I saw Craig recently in Liverpool. Along with Stuart Francis and Tom Stade the best Canada has to offer. Simply brilliant.
I saw Craig supporting Frankie Boyle in Newcastle on Saturday and he was excellent - I thought he was miles better than Frankie was and thought that Craig should have been on stage for much longer than the 20 minutes he had. I hope he comes back to Newcastle again - I will definitely be there!
Craig is a unique and special talent. One of the funniest, most naturally gifted performers in the world and one of the most respected. Our audience in Cardiff absolutely adore him and I have never seem him be less than brilliant.
Saw Craig last night, supported Frankie Boyle at the Alhambra Theatre in Dunfermline. He was fantastic. Never laughed so much, think there was tears! Would not be harsh to say that he was better than Mr Boyle himself and should have given him the 1 1/2 hour slot!
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Edinburgh Fringe 2004
Paramount Comedy Presents Edinburgh and Beyond
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Edinburgh Fringe 2007
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Edinburgh Fringe 2008
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Return of the Lumberjacks
Edinburgh Fringe 2013
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