An Englishan, An Irishman And A Scotsman - Exposed
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2005
Everyone's favourite joke characters step away from the bar and into the spotlight! Join Australian Gerard McCulloch in his European premier as he brilliantly reveals the shocking secrets behind these comedy legends, careers. Hear the truth about lightbulbs, genies, and blondes!
So this Englishman, this Irishman and this Scotsman walk into the bar – but how did they get there, what’s their back stories and how did they come to star in so many jokes?
That’s the premise of Australian comic Gerard McCulloch’s show, and one you might justifiably treat with suspicion: can such a contrived idea really support an hour-long show?
The answer, though, is a resounding ‘yes’, thanks to an incredibly well constructed script, which keeps the pace varied and continually adds new surprises and depths to that simple original concept.
It’s formatted like a talking heads documentary – or jokeumentary, if you must - with each of the geographically diverse trio giving their version of events surrounding their encounters, careers and, of course, jokes.
Then there’s the Australian barman of that very pub where they first met, allegedly in 1953, who acts as an independent witness, and occasional other joke characters, such as the Jew.
All this involves a great deal of swopping of hats and accents for the talented Mr McCulloch. The disguises inevitably fall apart, and at one point his voice does too, providing more than a few incidental laughs and, along with a few other witty asides, punctures the rigid theatricality that might otherwise bind the piece.
The trio are the broad caricatures you’d expect from the jokes: the aloof Englishman, the Jock in ginger beard and tam o’shanter and the Irishman a bog-hopping Paddy, albeit one with a purported PhD in nuclear physics.
A gag or two from The World’s Best Irish Jokes are then deconstructed, with the characters either protesting how they had been misrepresented or – as their government-backed career as the subjects of morale-boosting jokes takes off – explaining how the jokes were staged.
It all layers up nicely, an just when you think the idea’s been exhausted, McCulloch takes the show in a new direction, constantly surprising the delighted audience. Like every rock band, the trio ultimately split up over creative differences, and as the joke format goes out of comedy favour, our three unwise men find themselves out of work, bemoaning he fact like the bitter, maudlin protestations of old-school comedians.
The conclusion of this rigorous examination of the joke form also reveals the ultimate secret of comedy: ‘Making fun of people’s ethnic backgrounds.’ It’s a lesson McCuloch acknowledges, but doesn’t rely on.
McCulloch’s skill is bringing his caricatures to such three-dimensional life, convincing us to believe in such an unlikely tale. He charms in performance, as well as the writing, and the two combine to create an hour of quietly understated joy. To get such laughs as he does out of something that’s essentially just quietly witty rather than rip-roaring is a precious talent.