Adam Hess: Seahorse | Edinburgh Fringe review by Paul Fleckney
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Adam Hess: Seahorse

Edinburgh Fringe review by Paul Fleckney

I’m not entirely sure how to review a battering ram, but I’ll give it a go. Having seen Adam Hess’s previous two shows I am pretty much used to his hyperactive style by now, and I did wonder if he would soften it slightly this year, if in his maturing years he would take it down a notch. Oh no. If anything he’s doubling down. Honestly, the 80 or so people in the Pleasance Upstairs just got shouted at so much I thought I was in Sandhurst.

In Seahorse, Hess updates us on his life, the top line being that he’s a single fella who’s moved back in with his parents, and it’s not going too well. It’s quite easy to forget that this is the broad thrust of things, given he throws about three shows-worth of stuff at you in the course of the show. 

Each joke is accompanied by a pile-up of tangents, distractions and diversions, which I realise is a style in itself but Seahorse is too unfocused for its own good. That said, some of his asides and throwaway jokes are sublime, such as his observation about the second half of the alphabet; Hess certainly has the ability to see comedy in things that few other comics can.

Perhaps because he’s living at the homestead now, much of Hess’s material is preoccupied with his childhood and teenage years, and there are some very funny moments involving old photos of him as a child (of which there were very few, apparently), and his experiment in putting on make-up. A persistent feature of Hess’s comedy is ‘strange things I did/my family did when I was young’ and there seems to be an endless supply of it – however true it is, it’s a rich seam of comedy.

Some focus emerges from the barrage towards the end, with a story about a woman he met in a cafe and a party she invited him to, which was also attended by an old school rival of his. It’s an amusing tale although I’m not sure it’s strong enough to be the spine of a comedy show.

One thing that was evident in the performance I saw was that Hess has upped the explicit neediness – ie telling the audience that he’s desperate for us to love him and laugh at him. It’s almost at Johnny Vegas levels of desperation, and it is funny, this owning of a vulnerability. It tips over at one point into him yelling at us (after a cheeky ‘magic trick’) that he’s a prophet, a god, the greatest comedian you’ll ever see –Nick Helm-style anger that suits Nick Helm but not Adam Hess.

Bottom line, Hess is funny. He can’t help it, and I laughed a lot in this hour, but it was also not easy to enjoy at times because it was such a barrage of 150 decibel hyperactivity. Towards the end when he went down to 8th gear, my sense was that the audience relaxed a bit, we’d been allowed a little head space and could process what he was saying.

It’s quite an achievement for a comic to be simultaneously funny, ridiculous, endearing and genuinely irritating, but Hess achieved just that in the hour I saw. 

Seahorse feels like oddly like a debut show, like I was watching a raw talent that hasn’t yet been honed. One day things are going to click with Hess, and I want to be there when it does, but right now he’s not so much learning the language of comedy as shouting it ever-louder.

Review date: 7 Aug 2018
Reviewed by: Paul Fleckney
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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