review star review star review star review blank star review blank star

Phil Nichol: A Deadpan Poet Sings Quiet Songs Quietly – Fringe 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

Another Fringe, another reinvention for Phil Nichol. No full-on maniacal performance, no structured storytelling, but instead a zero-energy, quietly-spoken self-appointed philosopher deadpanning one-liners.

The Fringe is supposed to be the place where comedians can experiment with their own act like this – though in reality, few rarely do, since their very nature dictates that experiments can fail. This one, I think, is inconclusive.

No one is intense as Nichol in full effect: screaming about the stage, all decorum sacrificed in the vigorously animated hunt for laughs, that always bears fruit thanks to the sheer force of performance.

Strip that away, as he does for much of this new persona of the white-suited ‘deadpan poet’ Bobby Spade, and the material is suddenly left as exposed as Nichol’s genitals at the end of his award-winning Naked Racist show. But when you’re doing puns about being angry with women and men because you’re ‘bi-furious’ or Christmas cracker-style jokes about the cannibal who ate the stutterer, only to find he ‘keeps repeating on me’ – a bit of performance oomph wouldn’t got amiss to help give the ailing lines a helping hand. Tim Vine knows this. Instead, he puts them to a near-soporific jazz beat provided by backing duo The Ghosts.

It is only the moments when the character’s cool façade blasts open, revealing the psychopath beneath, when the show really fizzes; giving Nichol the excuse to produce brief outbursts of white-hot comedy magma such as the punkishly anarchic song Do Everything You're Not Supposed To or the brisk but effective Helen Keller’s Fella.

Among other tracks, Haemophiliac Albino Cowboy seems like an attempt to copy the mixed-minority formula of Only Gay Eskimo; while a rant against political-correct terminology seems dangerously close to something Richard Littlejohn could have written – but with a lot more toe-tapping.

Speed is something this show doesn’t lack. The banter, poems are songs are pretty much one gag after another, and you have to admire the industry in creating that many one-liners; even if it’s sometimes a matter of quantity over quality.

Review date: 19 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

What do you think?

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.