Roman Fraden: Back In The Closet | Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett © Jamie Biver
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Roman Fraden: Back In The Closet

Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett

Dick-obsessed American comic Roman Fraden tries so hard to be outlandish, but his material seems cheap, however much commitment he puts into performing it.

For a gay man, he’s pretty reductive about other gay men, portraying them all as stereotypically prissy. He has a running joke about what he calls the ‘gay face’ that all homosexual men apparently have (I’m sure you have always wondered why Paul Sinha, Stephen Fry and Matt Lucas are so hard to tell apart). After some investigation, he concludes it’s down to sucking cock. Of course it is.

A telling moment comes when he talks about trying anal sex for the first time. How do guys clean their butts, he asks, presumably rhetorically so he can shock us with his dirtiness. But a gruff Scottish voice calls out from the darkness to explain, as matter-of-factly as you like, exactly how a douche works. In an instant, any prudishness Fraden was hoping to challenge evaporates. There’s a funny analogy at the heart of this section, but his ‘what am I like?!’ shtick does nothing for it.

In another lazy chunk, he takes to his keyboard for the oldest trick in the musical comedy songbook, ending one half of a rhyming couplet with stunt and – surprise! - not dropping the c-bomb on the next.

There are a couple of celebrity encounter anecdotes here, too, though they are overplayed. There’s a story about Sting, way too long-winded for the one good line that pays it off, while his name-dropping of Tonya Harding doesn’t really go anywhere. He knows her because he used to be a figure skating champion – certainly a unique backstory for a comic – but there’s no storytelling flourish to how he recalls the day Nancy Kerrigan was nobbled on the orders of Harding’s ex-husband.

Fraden still has the moves, though, and brings a unique physicality to his performance. Another plus is a decent stand-up routine on the peculiarity of applause, but it’s fairly short-lived.

All the strands are forced together in an acid flashback at the end – a contrived callback device that could accommodate anything, and is as tedious as hearing anyone recount their actual trip.

Fraden tries so hard to package material in a unique way, but overlooks the more substantial issue that the material itself is what needs the work.

However, you have to feel sorry for him one respect, shelling out good money for the Gilded Balloon’s Balcony room: a cramped sweatbox of a venue that has deafening noise bleed from the music show next door… it’s a worse performing environment than a lot of the spaces he could have got for free.

Review date: 6 Aug 2018
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Gilded Balloon Teviot

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