Peter Buckley Hill

Peter Buckley Hill

Peter Buckley HIll: 40 Words – Edinburgh Fringe

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

The gloriously shambolic Peter Buckley-Hill has always had something of the mad scientist about him; and this year he’s delved wholeheartedly into the subject to generate gags you’re guaranteed to hear nowhere else. Sometimes, admittedly, for very good reason – but more often because he’s taken an obscure topic and tackled it obliquely.

He gets so twisted up around the concept of E=mc², for instance, that he uses it obtuse logic to prove that the universe is 140 per cent sofa. A member of the audience does pick him up on it, but only because he thinks the percentage should be higher.

Then there’s the extracts from his Schrödinger’s Cat musical, reference to Dr Andrew Wiles, the mathematician who solved the centuries-old Fermat’s Last Theorem, plate tectonics, and polar flips of the earth’s magnetic fields. The phrase ‘mnemonic anarchronism’ is used not as a Googlewhack, which is what it sounds like, but as a punchline.

If you get those references, great, but this is not a show that’s so up-its-own-arse clever than you laugh just to show how well-read you are. The gags are daft, the man who’s telling them dafter.

Science isn’t his only theme – he warms to failure and death – though it does provide the show’s best moments. Mind you, the pubic hair routine was pretty damn good too, and in the hands of a slicker, hungrier comic could easy become a calling card.

But PBH – who’s also the man behind the Free Fringe – embraces amateurism in its finest Latin-roots meaning, doing comedy for the love of it rather than worrying too much about polish. He draws attention to his running order, comments frankly on reactions his gags get, and looks rather awkward when he tries to jolly us all along in his silly sing-songs.

The gags are undersold by that casual delivery, but under analysis, they can be revealed for the gems they are. This was a show I’ve probably enjoyed more in retrospect, remembering the gags from my notes, than at the time.

Not every line’s that good, mind. There’s tolerance-testing cheesy wordplay and painfully convoluted puns galore. ‘Dad jokes’ you might call them.

PBH is as much as an Edinburgh institution as fried food and swearing, but he proves that comedy’s not all about youthful pretty-boys who’ll look good on E4. Sometimes it’s about silly – and not-so-silly – gags.

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Published: 17 Aug 2009

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