Andy Askins: The Man With No Name
An act with timing and pathos but little sense of storytelling gifts
This is Andy Askins' debut solo show in Edinburgh. Which is not to say that he's a bright, young comedy upstart: he's been gigging on the club circuit since 2005. Also, he's bald, wears thick glasses and plugs in a guitar at the top of his hour with all the cheeky exuberance of a dad about to play an unscheduled set of Deep Purple covers at his daughter's wedding. So, appearance-wise, he's no Brad Pitt. But he is younger than the Hollywood star, he tells us. With a grimace. We also learn that he's married ('unhappily'), that he lives on the Isle of Wight and that comedy 'doesn't come naturally' to him; such disarming honesty actually represents the best part of his show. In being a bit pitiful, he manages to be really quite funny, bumbling through a few gags that showcase his keen sense of timing and pathos. 'I should do more audience participation,' he considers, for a lingering moment. 'What do you think?'
But this kind of anti-rapport is only one side to his act. The other sees him telling painfully conceited stories about his life in order to set up punchlines that struggle to land, with interspersed comedy songs: versions of classics by the Police and Simon & Garfunkel with the lyrics changed. They'd see him crowned Funniest Man in the Pub in many Isle of Wight boozers, but here they feel depressingly overworked.
And so that initial sense of pity which Askins exploited to good effect turns into something more genuine on the audience's part. His material worked better when it didn't seem like material at all, just the huffing and puffing of a desperate middle-aged man, trying his hand at this whole Edinburgh thing. 'I wish I could do all that stuff,' Askins says, referring to the telling of effective jokes on stage. The funny thing is, he doesn't need to.
Gilded Balloon at the Counting House, until 28 Aug, 7pm, £5 or Pay What You Want.