Phil Ellis’s Excellent Comedy Show | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review
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Phil Ellis’s Excellent Comedy Show

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

Phil Ellis’s Excellent Comedy Show has got it all: music, singing, dancing, improvised rap, puns, emotional heft, TikTok videos… 

Is he any good at any of those things? Hell no, but the way he throws himself into each ridiculous element is a thing of joy. He’s doing comedy on hard mode just so he can fail magnificently.

The layers of chaotic nonsense, so fully embraced, make him Vic and Bob rolled into one. He’s a great comedian pretending to be a terrible comedian pretending to be a great comedian in a Babushka doll of slapstick stupidity.

His show kicks off with what would be a showstopper for many, but is only the start of the madness here. He takes to the stage in a lyrca bodysuit with a bin bag over his head so as to protect the surprise of his big reveal, typical of his unwavering commitment to looking stupid. However, it does mean he can’t see a damn thing and instantly stumbles into the drum kit so painstakingly set up for his backing band, The Two Cammys.

They are an inspired addition, allowing him to keep shifting the mood and adding a cheesy 1970s club entertainer vibe to the show. So he’ll serve up some stand-up that attempts to put a cheery veneer on how bleak his life is, still living in a flatshare as a middle-aged man, followed by a blast of Petula Clark. The gear change alone is funny.

That wretchedness and death underpin the cheerful demeanour is a big part of the appeal. We’re constantly reminded of the dichotomy of the superficial entertainer having real problems in real life, but on both levels we’re invited to laugh at the pain. And we don’t need to be asked twice with a performance as fun as this.

Suicide and OCD diagnoses, the staples of so many Fringe shows, are here just throwaway lines. He certainly likes to dwell on things – a wink 15 years ago is still on his mind – then dismiss them with a dumb joke. 

The density of gags is impressive, with Ellis engineering the win-win situation of being able to get laughs either from the jokes or their failure. ‘You’re right, that doesn’t work,’ he might cheerfully confide. Or better yet suggest things a ‘better comic’ would do in his situation. Though for ‘better’ read ‘more corporate and generic’, for there’s not many better exponents of this message-free, ego-free, knockabout comedy than Ellis in his prime. And this is that show.

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Review date: 14 Aug 2023
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Monkey Barrel Comedy (The Hive)

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