Fringe favourite hits all the right notes
This article is from 2009.
‘Tonight Matthew, I’m going to be Bobby Spade.’ Phil Nichol’s transformation into a white-suited lounge lizard with a sideline in psychopathy, is so complete that all that’s missing is the trademark Stars in Their Eyes dry-ice intro. Accompanied by jazz piano and double-bass, the Canadian comic unfurls his man’s tragic back-story – an abusive mother, a series of ‘uncles’, a string of failed marriages – in hilarious verse, riotous song and priceless one-liners.
Early offering ‘My Show’ – a paean with enough egomania to fill a clutch of gangsta rap records – is pure Spade: misogynistic, lecherous, unnerving, and deeply, consistently funny. From then on in it’s a rollercoaster ride of black comedy gold with beat poetry about adultery and incest, rockabilly ditties redolent of an incurably demented Johnny Cash and a witty meditation on Helen Keller’s husband. Nichol’s stand-up is certainly an acquired taste but in Spade he has found the perfect vehicle for his substantial lyrical gifts. There is physicality to his humour too. While reciting a punk poem entitled ‘Do Everything You’re Not Supposed To’, he grits his teeth and butts the air like an angsty teenager at a My Chemical Romance gig.
The laughs come thick and fast throughout, aided and abetted by a string of one-liners so depraved Jerry Sadowitz would think twice before using them – but so good he’d never pass them up. Nichol even creates a new literary form in the ‘pong’ (a poem/song hybrid) during which he admits: ‘This show won’t make you think/It’s just something I wrote when I’d too much to drink’. Bobby Spade may not be the most cerebral character on this year’s Fringe, but he could well be the funniest.
The Stand II, 558 7272, until 30 Aug, 9pm, £10.