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Pete Johansson: Fringe 2012

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

The official blurb for Pete Johansson’s third Edinburgh show explains: ‘He's now focusing on transitional values, the less obvious mental and moral decay of getting older and the addiction he has trying to make the world a better place.’

Is it heck. It’s a show about bears.  How very Canadian.

He’s got some very good, if delightfully quirky, ideas about how the caniforms could be employed for the betterment of society, whether as reality TV stars, clearing gypsy sites (not very PC that bit), or as police support. And who can’t imagine a bear in a cop’s hat and smile?

But there’s an odd atmosphere in the Underbelly’s Dairy Room on this quietish Tuesday night, which Johansson never quite overcomes. His response seem to be to push through quickly, leaving no room for audience to start doubting the material, but also leaving them behind. They were too slow boarding his whimsy train, and now it’s fast steaming away from the station without them.

The result is a rather unforgiving onslaught of quirky bear facts, jokes and suggestions that don’t quite land, fascinating or funny though they are. And since he’s so committed to the apparently limited theme, it’s a nagging problem.

More engaging are his personal tales, especially of how his mother found his collection of Hustler magazines and – in the same way as you might teach a lesson to a child caught smoking – made him examine every photograph in minute detail, thus ruining porn for him forever. Still, he seems to have done all right with women, having married a model, and the consequences of that produce yet another strong routine that’s funny, but with an edge.

It’s frustrating that the show as a whole doesn’t work better than it did, which might just be a consequence of tonight’s strange energy, as Johansson’s normally such a reliable comedian, with spot-on delivery. These are well-written pieces with a purpose, even if he does over-egg the ursine theme, and a tender payoff makes good sense of all that has gone before. Just bear with him.


Review date: 16 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Underbelly Bristo Square

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