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Joe WIlkinson: My Mum's Called Stella And My Dad's Called Brian

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

This is something of a disappointing solo debut for much-tipped Joe Wilkinson, who has been coming to the Fringe in compilation shows and the sketch duo Two Episodes Of MASH since 2006.

There are a couple of nice flourishes – especially his deliberately awkward way of disposing of the microphone stand at the start of the show and a nice pathos-tinged finale – but there is definitely some sagging in the middle.

Maybe that’s because of the theme of the show, which is all about how little he’s achieved in his life – not the most immediately inviting of premises. He downplays his delivery, too, with traces of Rodney Trotter in his wearily put-upon London tones. He has low expectations in life, and still it seems to let him down. His best story revolves around a dispiriting visit to a strip club which proved, should proof be needed, that he’s very far from being a laddish alpha male.

Failure is what the show’s all about. He can’t even give up smoking or own a hammer, and his career success is so limited that many of his anecdotes take place on public transport, with one horror stories involving the 14-hour Megabus trip from his home to Dundee.

But he’s also tacked on a few bits of other stand-up by – for example – claiming that one failed ambition is to give evidence in court, just so he can do his bit about what he would do in that situation. That routine only serves to underline the fact that his beard and retro brown suit him look like a defendant in a high-profile Seventies sexual assault case, and indeed he makes several similar references to his appearance, which seem a little pedestrian.

Elsewhere there are nice touches of detail, such as his startlingly precise images in his pondering about male-pattern baldness. And when his imagination is allowed to wander, as it does when he spots two community support officers guarding a parking space, the show moves up a gear from the more straightforward retelling of experiences he’s had.

There’s just enough of these to earn Wilkinson three stars, but it’s a close call for a comedian who always seems to attract industry attention but never really comes up with the goods to make an impact.

Review date: 23 Aug 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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