Des Bishop: My Dad Was Nearly James Bond

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

If you think this is really the in-depth story of how Des Bishop’s father, a jobbing character actor, nearly got to be James Bond, prepare for disappointment. He was specially asked to audition for 007 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, such was his promise, but in the end George Lazenby got the gig. Erm, that’s it.

But this is not really the man whom Des calls Dad. He was a modest retail worker, having given up his thespian ambitions to support his family. This is a tribute to that man. Why? Because Bishop Sr has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

As anyone who saw Jason Cook’s Edinburgh show My Confessions will know, dying fathers can be funny, or at least the inspiration for funny. Bishop puts any sentimentality aside to paint a honest picture of an imperfect man doing his best.

Instead of the soppiness sometimes associated with Bishop’s native America, the tone here is instead set by his years in Ireland, a nation not known for its emotion. The highest honour you can pay someone is to take the piss out of them… and Bishop doesn’t shy away from those duties, gleefully showing us clunky footage of Dad’s minor role in a Day Of The Triffids telemovie, or recounting the embarrassing time was caught masturbating in front of the TV.

Bishop’s an easy performer to watch: charismatic, sincere, eloquent – and always seeking the angle. He hasn’t quite got his ideas in perfect order here, but the anecdotes are always warm and witty, and the intent beyond reproach. The only thing that seems slightly out of place, though still very funny, is a frank discourse about the realities of occasional impotence. He offers a justification for its inclusion, but the need for such a caveat suggests he’s not convinced it really fits the story, either – though it’s honesty makes this a damn fine routine, which is perhaps reason enough to do it.

However, by the time it reaches Edinburgh this August, the show could have the tear-jerking conclusion it deserves, should the plans Bishop details bear fruit. That could give it the emotional wallop to make it unforgettable.

As it stands, this version of the show is nonetheless a warmly affectionate, incisively witty hour-and-a-bit that truthfully appraises the father-son bond with typical good humour.

Review date: 19 Apr 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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