Everybody Hates Chris (Neill)
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2006
Chris Neill returns for his fourth Edinburgh with a show about the perils of celebrity, the pitfalls of fame and the pleasures of mediocrity. Selfpromoters, charlatans, fakes and star-fuckers beware...
Aided by the memoirs of those who really shouldn't have bothered, including Jodie Marsh, Martine McCutcheon and Bernard Ingham, Chris takes on the popular notion that everyone wants to be famous. He can't understand it - he doesn't. Or not at least until he's got the garden done.
With his penchant for bad literature, and a style of discursive routines that tend to end with a strong, incredulous, sarcastic line delivered with sharply rising inflexion, Chris Neill is the camp Robin Ince.
On track, he can be very funny, with barbed asides and acidic mockery making for some delicious gags. But he really doesn't put the effort in, so ends up relying too heavily on his charm as an anecdotalist rather than strong writing.
He prefers what's sometimes called 'found comedy', collecting various items of interest and sharing them with the audience. From the bad literature stable comes the autobiographies of Martine McCutcheon and Jodie Marsh, this latter written with incredible arrogance, blasé sexual candour and an utter lack of selfawareness, which Neill mocks simply by reading out with arch inflection.
He's also found audience stories of encounters with celebrities fame being vaguely the theme of the show which he skips through, sometimes just mocking how rubbish the tenuous links are, or how empty someone's life must be that they introduce themselves as 'Pam Ayres's cousin.'
Best of his finds, though, is a newspaper story headlined Woman Dies In Garden Pond Tragedy, a title that does scant justice to the bizarre sequence of events the article describes. Thankfully, Neill is on hand to fill in all the gaps and extrapolate around the edges. This is his stand-out routine, witty and silly and very well told.
For all his snipes at the outside world, Neill is quite a charmer to his audience. When a mobile goes off, he deals with it in the most sympathetic, concerned way, leaving no one embarrassed. And he can, when he wants to, come up with the most delicious turns of phrase.
But all too often he's unfocussed and needlessly digressive. A slight story about a book that takes 30 pages to describe a Palm Springs hotelier not meeting a Hollywood legend is equally woolly, going into overly detailed descriptions of the menu and his trip there which aren't funny and have nothing to do with the key story.
Neill is an engaging, likeable presence, so if he could combine that with writing that's as consistently sharp as he proves himself capable of, he would be a must-see rather than a diversion.