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Paul Sinha: 39 Years of Solitude - Fringe 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

Paul Sinha’s fourth solo Edinburgh show isn’t quite what you might expect – perhaps because he thought the advertised theme of being perennially single was one more ‘relateable’ than the true message of the show: that if more people were pedantic, annoying pub-quiz bores who just have to be right, like himself, society would be a much better place.

The link between his obsessive knowledge retention and singledom is that the former has filled the whole where, perhaps, a real relationship should be. Sinha’s last one failed in 1991 when his boyfriend told him he was ‘a tedious tosser who has no sense of humour’. And that from a man who though Mermaids was the best film he’d ever seen. It seems Sinha’s entire award-nominated stand-up career is an attempt to prove someone wrong.

The first half of his show sets all this up, an apparent attempt to move away from his box-ticking profile as the ‘gay, Asian, GP comedian’. Now we can add unspectacular performances on University Challenge, The Weakest Link and Mastermind to that CV, despite his compulsion for showing off knowledge. He’s the sort of comedian who checks Michelle Obama’s star sign to ensure a punchline is factually correct.

Some of this is a little pedestrian for a stand-up with a formidable reputation for incisive social commentary, as he spends more time setting the scene than cracking the gags – although when they do come, they have the clever/smart-arse edge you might expect from a man driven by pedantry.

Things take an upswing, though, when he describes how his zeal for quizzing has helped him out in real life. Yes really. Not so much the arcane information he’s acquired – though that, surprisingly helps, but the confidence it’s given him.

After conquering the Mastermind chair, sharing a platform with a Muslim extremist holds no fear – even if hiding from an angry mob as a Christmas comedy gig went very bad ,– riot police with tear-gas bad – a little intimidating.

All these treads are duly pulled together with an encounter with a skinhead on a train, making sense of that all that went before, tying up all the threads in a neat conclusion.

Review date: 8 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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