Good Wil Hodgson
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2005
Perrier Best Newcomer 2004 and Channel 4 star draws you deeper into his complex world, including care bears, wrestling and Chippenham skinheads.
Wil Hogdson is one of the select band of comics challenging society’s increasing acceptance of loutish laddism - countering the sort of beer, birds and brawling mentality promoted by the likes of Nuts magazine with a more sensitive, insightful brand of comedy
Daniel Kitson is, of course, their king. But this pink-mohicanned West Country misfit could well be the heir apparent.
He looks like a punk, but he collects Care Bears. He collects Care Bears, but he’s straight. He’s straight but can’t abide the ideals of female sexuality as promoted by the media, Abi Titmuss proving a particular bugbear. As you can see, this ex-Communist, ex-wrestler is impossible to pigeonhole, and he likes it that way.
His comedy, too, is an alternative to the alternative. A world away from the careerist comics at the Pleasance, he’s an interesting bloke with some interesting tales – even if told in an apparently uninteresting Chippenham monotone.
His delivery is like a tap being turned on. It starts and a stream of consciousness emerges, and when time’s up, it stops just as abruptly. But the intelligent, moral content shows the material is a lot more considered than that outward image suggests – another expectation foiled.
The show starts with him filling in some background detail from that varied past, paying tribute to skinheads (‘a great group of guys’ who he says have been misrepresented in the media) and recalling some amusing tales from his time in the ring, when his increasingly provocative ideas for his baddie character ended in a parting of ways.
Wilberforce P Hodgson, as he calls himself, has a nice turn of phrase, and some wonderful lines in the tale often don’t get the reaction they might deserves, as he makes no effort to telegraph them, and the audience don’t want to laugh for fear of missing some of the cracking tale.
Two extended routines demonstrate his expert storytelling skills perfectly. In the first, he tells of his time in a marching band, coerced into being the only male player of the bell lyre – a xylophonish instrument played on the shoulder – much to the derision of his macho comrades.
The second one is perfect, a compelling modern-day parable about the folly of betraying your true self in the face peer pressure. It’s set in his schooldays, among the rag-tag Red Team of losers and misfits, of whom Hodgson was, naturally, leader, and covers issues of camaraderie, bullying and treachery, all told with an understated wit.
At the end of it, our cult hero proclaims. ‘There’s the moral folks. You were probably expecting a punchline.’ But no one minds – we’ve all been taken on a gripping journey through Wil’s world, and you couldn’t have hoped for a better guide.