John Ryan Isn't Normal?
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2003
John Ryan has been questioning normality - his own, mainly.
John Ryan's strength as a comic is his friendliness. He banters unthreateningly with the wary audience, doing all the groundwork to put them at ease.
He's a comedy jukebox, able to chat amiably about anything thrown at him, and he easily engages the crowd - even if he cannot fire them with passion.
Which raises the obvious question: why on earth would anyone think he isn't normal? This is Edinburgh, a seven foot transvestite juggler on a unicycle is considered normal, so a chatty, animated comic isn't going to register.
He says the question was raised when his son was heckled at the nativity play with the line "Your dad's not normal." But of course, this idea of normality is really just an excuse on which to hang a loose thread of gags and anecdotes just by starting every routine with a variation of: "Is it normal to..?"
A basic flaw of the show is that you never quite believe him. Every tale sounds like a joke and the anecdotes seem to occupy an uncomfortable middle ground between truth and gags.
Afterwards, he reassured me everything he said actually took place, but his delivery style - and the convenience of how certain situations play out - means this just doesn't come across on stage.
The show contains some enjoyable stand-up tales, and maybe four or five very good jokes - but it's a long way from a laugh a minute.
And the whole seems less than the sum of its parts because, try as he might, Ryan cannot convince a sceptical audience that his level of normality should be of any interest to them.
As a show, it's neither especially good nor especially bad. It's just, well, normal.