Joe McTernan: Life Advice That Won't Change Your Life | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review
review star review star review star review blank star review blank star

Joe McTernan: Life Advice That Won't Change Your Life

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

The emergence of viral online stars as Fringe performers in recent years has been a decidedly mixed blessing.

Breaking down some of the barriers to entry, and perhaps even broadening the festival's audience, particularly with regard to Scottish and working-class acts, they can be an unencumbered breath of fresh air, free of plenty of the cynicism that surrounds the established comedy industry.

Equally though, there's often a sense that they haven't properly paid their dues and had some gauche corners knocked off. That they haven't been subjected to the more critical scrutiny of Fringe crowds and critics that might drive them to more ambitious, original material.

Joe McTernan is emblematic in this respect. A likeable everybloke who establishes an instant rapport with a crowd familiar with his online sketches, his suggestion that he's in any way camp within the context of the largest arts festival in the world is, unintentionally, laughable. Alongside his undiagnosed ADHD symptoms, these feel like unconvincing, naive attempts to make himself seem fit for the festival stage, even if the mental health issue is his genuine experience.

A thoroughly explored show about the psychological impact of blowing up online would be compelling. But McTernan isn't interested in digging that deep, preferring instead to note how a famous cat meme has forever changed his perception of felines in general.

Mind you, he archly points out that dependence on one's phone can scarcely be considered an addiction in Scotland. Not for the last time during this show – in a Fringe fit to bursting with performers talking about their therapy – it's refreshing to hear an act so straightforwardly strip away the navelgazing and couch the conversation in the casual reach out of a pub chat.

So it's a shame that the greater part of this show is given over to mocking the self-help platitudes that proliferate on social media like Japanese knotweed. With the pretext that during the Covid pandemic, he noticed a rise in motivational gurus online, McTernan shares his list of some of the more inane quotes, obliterating these selectively chosen fish in a barrel while using them as the launchpad for some pretty stock observations.

I'm not sure the world will ever need another routine on electronic train toilet doors unhelpfully sliding open to betray their occupant, or the differing reactions of Scots and Americans when someone takes a pratfall.

The fact that McTernan attributes his wish-washy motivational lines to an increasingly unlikely cadre of famous orators, such as William Wallace and Abraham Lincoln, is a limp running gag about the internet's relationship with factual accuracy. But it also highlights the arbitrary and meaningless selection of these six, would-be profound statements.

Except they're not entirely meaningless. In an almost self-parodical send-up of Fringe convention, McTernan shares his genuine grief at the three-quarter mark of the show, evoking a relationship that he affords a bit of relatability to with an unvarnished, very human account of love with limits, affection through the rough and the smooth.

A fine place to end, he regrettably, doesn't, sharing his own, adapted six mantras to live by, a mawkish touch that endears him to you even as you wish he hadn't wrapped it all up quite so sentimentally.

Review date: 22 Aug 2023
Reviewed by: Jay Richardson
Reviewed at: Underbelly Bristo Square

Live comedy picks

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.