Wil Anderson: I am the Wilrus
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2006
On his last visit to the Edinburgh Fringe in 1999, Wil was nominated for the Perrier Newcomer.
Since then he's been busy back home becoming one of Australia's biggest comedy stars hosting his own TV and radio programs, writing a weekly column in the highest selling newspaper in the country, and selling out stand-up shows from Melbourne to Montreal.
I got a sense of how this might go when queuing to get in. The start time was fast approaching and the line curved round the yard in the dark outside. Wil's head popped out of the doors and said 'I'm ready! Shall we start out here? Gather round!' and we all shuffled into a circle. A quick audience survey showed that the dominant group was Australians, about an 80-20 split, who know Wil Anderson off the telly for Glass House and more. He cracked off a few lines about the deep fried Scottish food, British dietary habits and more, paying tribute to Lee Mack's bon mot about never mind the quality of the material, admire the speed. Somebody behind me grunted it was the eighth deep fried food joke about Scotland he'd heard that day. This set the tenor of the evening.
When we were allowed in, there was a medley of rapped up Beatles songs (justifiying the punning title I guess) and the stage was drifting with smoke, lights, lanterns rotating and a stark downward white spot. Oh yeah, this was rock and roll. The Reid Hall was, tonight, Wembley Stadium. After a pumping blast of music he bounded on, head mic taped in place à la Madonna. He was an energetic, physically exuberant presence, prowling the stage, striding down the catwalk, arms spread wide to include us all. Motivational guru Anthony Robbins could learn a thing or two from Wil Anderson.
He has a rapid fire delivery that creates a sense of urgency about everything he has to say. Unfortunately, when everything is urgent, it's hard to define what becomes important.
If you had already bought into his considerable charm, this would have given you the time of your life, but as a Wil Anderson neophyte, I was less convinced. I'd never want to deny his likeability, energy and commitment to giving the audience a good time, but there was barely an original thought or turn of phrase in the entire set. It all felt vaguely familiar, ticking off standard Aussie references Skippy, Steve Irwin, dim New Zealanders, blokes. There was much more than just these points but if you've knocked around the UK circuit for any time at all you would be conversant with most of the ideas.
Coming from big TV success as Wil Anderson does to live work
creates its own pressure a good percentage of the audience
would come to see him inhabit the same speedy, boyish persona
as is offered on the box. God knows I don't want to see somebody
being offensive or controversial just to get coverage, but away
from the telly I'd expect something less bland and one-size fits