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Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2008
Arnold Brown Presents Happiness: The Search Continues
The term ‘legend’ gets bandied about with distressing ease these days but in the case of Arnold Brown it’s probably appropriate.
A genuine veteran who was onstage at the opening of The Comedy Store in 1979 (shortly before being gonged off by Alexei Sayle), he also has the rare distinction of having been Frank Sinatra’s warm-up at Ibrox.
His special guest, Ian Macpherson, is an Irish stand-up.
There is some rather neat material in this, Arnold Brown’s 21st Fringe show, but the soporific effect of his distinctively dry Glaswegian monotone ultimately deadens its impact.
Only a few jokes are strong enough to overcome his bleakly featureless delivery, while the weaker lines that bulk out the central of his set wither and die under these harsh, tranquil conditions.
Brown – a sort of Tim Vine on temazepam – starts and ends well, with a brisk succession of disjointed one-lines, always imaginative and often with an enjoyable taste of surrealism that reward the interminable waits between set-up and punch. But when he wanders into longer, below-par material about sheep being coquettishly attractive or Osama Bin Laden’s favourite tune being ‘Hello, is it me you’re looking for?’, the gags become as uninteresting his deadpan.
Taking literally signs such as ‘thieves are operating in this area’ or ‘Keep all your belongings with you’ is also very tired; and even if Brown was among the first to do this sort of material, it really ought to be left by the wayside now. And when every comedian on God’s earth is doing material about religion, Brown’s seems quaintly dated.
It’s a shame, as there’s ten delightful minutes in his set, just that this is nowhere near enough to raise his set from its slumber.
More interesting is support act Ian MacPherson, an Irishman just as dry and energy-starved as Brown – but over 20 minutes his restful set isn’t left floundering. Another pioneer of modern stand-up, he is a warm, literate act who plays lovely tricks with the language, all of which raise a gentle chuckle, but some of which display a rare flair and inventive brilliance.
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
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