Jonny Pelham: Before And After | Review by Steve Bennett
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Jonny Pelham: Before And After

Review by Steve Bennett

A socially awkward West Yorkshireman with a speech impediment who finds confidence through comedy, skilfully enticing audiences into his off-kilter world… there’s a touch of the young Daniel Kitson about Jonny Pelham.

‘I’m quite a weird man’ is how he opens his sturdy Edinburgh debut, describing a medical textbook’s worth of physical quirks. And as if they weren’t enough to give him outsider status, it was cemented at his Bradford school, where he was the only white kid in class – and his otherwise all-Bengali street gang.

His medical issues meant that he was sent to a retreat for disabled children one summer, and his depiction of the patronising do-gooder leader at Camp Courage – really! – is delightfully funny, with a great payoff. However the core of this story comes when he received a letter from the NHS offering him £30,000-worth of cosmetic surgery on his face, an unsolicited approach which he’s initially affronted by, but then starts to ponder. If he can be made better-looking, will that transform his confidence?

This internal debate proves a strong framework on which to recount a raft of amusing anecdotes, usually confessing his own peculiar behaviour but sometimes that of others, too, in the context of a moral dilemma over whether such a superficial ‘fix’ – albeit through major surgery – is really the answer.

Pelham’s humour has a strong self-effacing strand, but that’s only the part of it. There’s a quiet confidence to his stand-up that allows him to take ownership of those strange incidents of the past, as well as drawing the audience in to his stories before walloping them with an unexpected punchline. He rolls well with a smattering of minor disruptions tonight, too, and is relaxed enough to amuse himself with an accidental ad-lib.

Ever since he took second place in the Chortle Student Comedy Award three years ago, Pelham has increasingly looked at home on the stage, doing justice to 50 minutes of consistently funny writing. There are no major comedic fireworks, but a solid parade of laughs that endears this able newcomer to the room.

Review date: 10 Aug 2015
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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