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Launching into a month of madness trapped in a Pleasance sponsored Portakabin, Canadian comic Craig Campbell performs his debut solo show! Venue-wise, Craig muses 'one door with 80 punters blockin' it?! Expect it'll get a bit snakey at times!' Without wishing to give too much away the rugged raconteur claims he'll be relying heavily on 'the old switch-a-roo'.
Something seems to be troubling Craig Campbell tonight. He seems unconvinced by the audience reaction, even though he’s getting the laughs, and threatens to take the gig off its metaphorical rails to stir things up. Only when a handful of teenagers leave does he relax.
That he had such a mini crisis of confidence is especially bizarre, given what an accomplished stand-up he is, and how easily he takes command of the room. And this show is pure, unfettered stand-up – an extended set of the length North American headliners are used to, rather than any formal show with big ideas.
It takes him a while to get going, though we can attribute his audience banter to his instinctive Canadian friendliness rather than any padding. From the quality of most the material, it doesn’t seem that he needs that.
His foreigners’ eyes see things about our country that are not obvious to us natives, and possibly not to anyone else but him, either. Which British comedian would ever consider that our traffic roundabouts are such a brilliant invention, or that being able to park facing oncoming traffic was such a big deal?
But then Campbell does have a sharp Spidey-sense when it comes to observational comedy, as evidenced by his routine about buying bakery products late at night in Edinburgh’s streets. And don’t get him started on mobile phone companies – his run-ins with them provoke a ranty outpouring of heartfelt rage.
So when something really significant happens to him, such as helping apprehend a mugger, he can tell the tale in gripping detail, engaging the interest throughout.
Not everything is quite so good as this, his gripes about bus travel don’t seem to be set up properly so the anger here seems misplaced, but his finest routines demonstrate a keen mastery of the stand-up’s art, combining natural wit and a gift for storytelling. He shouldn’t let a slightly subdued audience detract from that.
To see Craig at the festival was an absolute treat. Proper comedy of the highest calibre. When people with the pens stop taking the best comics in the world for granted, and stop giving the amateur jesters that show up with their gimmicks five stars, we'll see a proper stand up comedy movement return. My friends saw Craig's show twice, and we caught him at two other late shows. He would have owned that festival if it really was about stand up comedy. I would recommend you see this man's act if he is performing anywhere within 100 miles of you!