The creation of Milo McCabe, Philberto is a character said to be Portugal's top reality TV star, who shot to fame on a show called Live On The Floor For A Month.
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Out of character...

Milo McCabe wonders whether he should be himself

I've been doing a character called Philberto on the comedy circuit for about four years now, and when I come off stage a significant number of people aren't sure whether they've seen a character or not.

Philberto is a Portuguese reality TV show winner. At some gigs I am able to go into the background of this, but at gigs where it seems a simpler approach is required I just go for tried and tested material. This ends up with me basically doing Philberto as a Portuguese comedian – which it's fair to assume is what he's become.

The dilemma I'm facing is whether to come out of character at the end of a show. At some gigs if I can't be bothered to explain to audience members who talk to me that it is a character, I just keep it going offstage till I'm out the door. At other gigs I blow myself out of the water onstage and admit it, which gets a reaction varying from 'Wow I had no idea' to 'That dude just tricked me' to 'Why?'

Having just done my first Edinburgh show  – and indeed, first gigs for years – as myself presenting four characters it was a different proposition. Audiences knew straight away they were dealing with a persona and there was none of the confusion I can sometimes face in the first minutes of a club gig, when people might think: 'What's that foreign bloke going on about?'

I have virtually no online presence at all as myself, as I've always been listed as Philberto. After the latest Edinburgh run, that has to change and now I'll be listed as 'Milo McCabe as...' when I'm performing club gigs. As big as that is in my mind, 95 per cent of club audiences pay no attention at all to the names on the bill if they aren't immediately recognisable from TV, .so I really doubt it'll make any difference.

Why do characters and not 'straight' stand-up? It's an odd one. There's the obvious answer that having a character can make things easier by putting up a barrier between the performer's real personality and the crowd, giving the stand-up a kind of shield to hide behind if things get tough. That's why a lot of comics start off as character acts and then evolve into 'themselves' or a version thereof onstage, but I went the other way, funnily enough for the same reasons.

When I started out as 'me' I was anything but. I got away with it, by and large, with a mixture of projected confidence and energy, but nothing that came out of my mouth was genuine. I wasn't doing stuff that I found funny, I was doing stuff that I thought would be funny and was ultimately soulless.

When I started doing a character, in a bizarre way I found that I could be much more honest with my performance; exhibit certain aspects of myself behind the safety net that comes with a persona – it's not me, it's him. I could genuinely give it 100 per cent on stage and I could do stuff that I liked and found funny.

I'm a white middle class guy from Surrey who's never had any genuine hardship and enjoys a healthy relationship with my parents. I don't have any strong political views, don't have a big point to prove to people and am not massively status driven – basically, I don't have  many of the building blocks traditionally required to be a really good comic. But I do have a comedian for a father and a personality that can be baffling for some when I'm not self-monitoring.

And I love comedy that doesn't make sense as long as it comes from a genuine place, comedy that you can't see coming or where it's come from. And being a character act gives me more of a license to do that.

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Published: 21 Sep 2011


Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2008


Edinburgh Fringe 2009

Philberto's Animal

Edinburgh Fringe 2011

Milo McCabe: Get Brown


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