Alex Horne: Making Fish Laugh
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2003
In 1976 scientists gathered in Cardiff to discover exactly what makes humans laugh. Now, for the first time, a stand-up comic recreates their experiments on stage. Warning: Parts of this show have been tested on animals
The title of Alex Horne's delightful Fringe debut isn't quite as surreal as it first seems.
Fish, it turns out, is a scientifically coined term for those people who fall between 'genial' and 'prudent' on a scale of personality types devised for a 1976 symposium about laughter.
Horne has somehow got hold of the findings from that obscure get-together, thus providing him with a series of tests he can apply to his audience.
Where most comics leave the stage with the line: "You've been a great audience", Horne can say precisely how great. I'm proud to report that we scored a more than respectable 6.3 out of ten.
As a comic, Horne would score much higher. He's interesting, quirky and bristling with ideas, plus he's written at least half a dozen cracking puns which get an airing here.
But first impressions weren't that encouraging, as he initially seems a little awkward and uncertain of himself. Once he relaxes into the show, though, he reveals a quick wit for off-the-cuff banter, giving the audience vital confidence in his abilities.
Horne's joined on stage throughout by Tim, a Statto-like sidekick, who helps conduct this least scientific of experiments to see how we react to such laughter stimuli as the mild discomfort of others, repetition and tickling.
These tests are full of off-the-wall invention and form a solid framework on which Horne can hang his eccentricities. His approach to this research is initially tongue-in-cheek earnest, but that facade soon collapses under the weight of the situation's stupidity, paving the way for some lovingly bizarre comedy.
Making Fish Laugh is well deserving of its four stars, a number I only wish had been determined under the rigours of the scientific process.