Andy Parsons: Bafflingly Optimistic | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review
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Andy Parsons: Bafflingly Optimistic

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

In the voiceover announcing himself to the stage, Andy Parsons hails his modest achievements, such as winning Wimborne Minster’s beautiful baby award and appearing in two films – neither of which have ever seen the light of day.

Self-deprecation, he believes, is a crucial part of the British sense of humour, and what makes us immune from extremist politicians. While he might think that admirable aspect of the national psyche may be worryingly on the wane, he’s doing his bit to keep it alive, taking pops at himself throughout the gig.

Another British characteristic is moaning about things going to pot but doing very little to proactively prevent it, and he very much shares that barstool politician vibe.

Challenging the accepted wisdom that older folk had it good and are ‘ballsing it up’ for every generation that follows, the former Mock The Week regular paints quite a grim picture of relentless public service cuts making life a misery for his elderly, Boomer, father, as he tries to get a cataract operation. It’s a bit too bleak to laugh at – as is a reminder of Wayne Couzens and the barrels full of ‘rotten apples’ harboured within the Met Police. 

Funnier is the way he sums up Boris’ mendacity over Partygate, acknowledging that having such an incompetent buffoon in charge of a country would have been hilarious – had it been any nation but ours. 

Liz Truss’s short-lived premiership is already a punchline, but Parsons adds another, while quips about David Attenborough’s carbon footprint are more tongue-in-cheek. With his trademark nasal, Southern English whine and carefully measured delivery, he also touches on the Jerry Sadowitz cancel culture row that flared up at last year’s Fringe. But he doesn’t really get to grips with the issue other than to suggest it’s not as big a problem as many parts of the media would have you believe.

In his most astute analysis, the satirist ties together quantitative easing, austerity, inflation, the cost-of-living crisis and the broken banking system into a narrative that you rarely hear raised even in the serious newspapers. It’s not that funny – even when couched as an obviously fake conversation with his 11-year-old son with a surprisingly tight grasp of macro-economics – but seems important.

Parsons rarely tries to find a direct balance between the comedy and the point-making within a routine, rather doing something serious then alleviating it with a sillier section. The trials of parenting is a go-to – he also has a five-year-old son – as are offhand comments about the room he’s playing.

In that vein, joking about the man who – callously in Parson’s interpretation – stayed in his seat as his partner left the venue for fear of fainting in the heat started strong, but suffered diminishing returns as he tried to make it a running joke by simple, shoehorned repetition.

After drawing the social and political commentary to an end, Parsons delivers another self-effacing routine about tracking down a mouse that amusingly depicts him getting into a humiliating position.

It’s been 17 years since his last full Fringe run – and this visit was only for two weeks before he heads out on tour next month – but he knows about obligatory emotional section at the end of a show, and he plays with that idea. 

He trusts he’s given us a glimmer of hope in a Britain left broken 13 years of Tory rule. Maybe he has, but he’s also reminded us that there are plenty of reasons not to be cheerful, too.

Review date: 29 Aug 2023
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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