Edinburgh `98 Comedy: Quest to be of good cheer

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The Independent Culture
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL

PLEASANCE

HAD GEORGES Perec ever felt prompted to translate his literary contortionism to stand-up comedy, he might have ended up with a performance similar to Dave Gorman's.

"Reasons To Be Cheerful" was originally a Top Ten hit for Ian Dury in 1979, a song so much to Gorman's liking that he took on a pounds 10 pub bet challenging him to create an entire show around Dury's idiosyncratic taxonomy of contentment.

Gorman accepting a further wager, that he couldn't engineer a routine based on a batch of second-hand slides bought from a jumble stall. I suppose if these propositions sounded reasonable to Gorman, then the logic of using the slides as an aid to deconstructing Dury's ditty must have been inescapable. Or, as the Bafta-winning contributor to Mrs Merton, explains: "Beer is beer, lads are lads and a bet's a bet."

Though Gorman occasionally falls back on his photographic catalogue of eccentric pets and holidaying grannies for a cheap laugh, the remainder of his, um, lecture is obsessively researched and far more entertaining than it has a right to be.

As with any epic quest, the journey is the end in itself - to obtain verse three's incomprehensible lyrics, for instance, Gorman had to wade through karaoke transcriptions, confront the song's original publishers, and consult the British Library's Smash Hits. At points, Dury's reasons to be cheerful seem anything but - one line, "18-wheeler Scammell" (a huge lorry), leads the Mancunian to discover the dark world of road haulier appreciation.

In the end, the show is often rather moving. The cosmic significance of camel heads is revealed, and we're also treated to a spot of statistical analysis, but the slides, hum-drum elegies to their long-dead subjects, are all the more touching given Dury's own physical condition.

At the Pleasance until 31 August

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