Phil Nichol: Nearly Gay

Note: This review is from 2005

Review by Steve Bennett

Look what a Perrier nomination can do for you. Three years ago, Phil Nichol made the shortlist for his show in the Pleasance Courtyard. This year, he’s in the tiny studio room above the Stand – and tonight it’s still only two-thirds full.

Although he presumably has good reason for choosing such a room (and it’s probably something to do with not losing money hand over fist), it’s a shame more people won’t get to see Nearly Gay. Because after the ill-conceived Freedumb last year, Nichol has returned to form with a great stand-up show: themed, engaging, expertly performed and most of all funny.

He hasn’t done much to tone down the style of his act for his new surroundings. It’s the size of someone’s front room, yet he projects like it’s the Royal Albert Hall; an in-your-face maelstrom of energy in a confined space you just can’t ignore.

It forces you into his story, and only later does he rein back, once he’s certain he’s got our full attention with all those rabble-rousing tricks of showboating stupidity he does so well.

His tale starts in Edinburgh’s Gilded Balloon seven years ago, when gay comic Scott Capurro attacked Nichol on the Late and Live stage, claiming his classic Only Gay Eskimo song made  him a homophobe.

So, in a series of brisk, humorous anecdotes, Nichol puts up the case for the defence. How, as a jazz-tap loving drama-school graduate, he has often been mistaken for gay. Indeed, he loves the whole hedonistic lifestyle – there’s only part of not being a homosexual that he’s not into, but it is the most crucial part.

We hear of his close encounter with a post-op transsexual, tales of outrageous depravity from the gay scene in Amsterdam and a quite frankly disturbing incident of horseplay with his girlfriend’s father.

All the stories are animated with Nichol’s hugely expressive delivery, and punctuated with a couple of songs that leap between the placidly plaintive and the screechingly manic.

He ends with an extended routine involving a supremely camp hairdresser, the Melbourne Comedy Festival and a serious penis injury; showing, as if it hadn’t been proved already, that his battery of performance skills can be effectively employed to draw out a long story.

The pay-off that wraps it all together is a little clunky, but that’s minor criticism after an hour of engaging, high-octane comedy storytelling guaranteed to entertain, wherever your sexual compass is pointing.

Review date: 1 Jan 2005
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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