Chris Addison: Civilization, Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh
Wednesday 18 August 2004
The future of Western civilisation may not depend on whether you see this show, but your enjoyment of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival will be greatly enhanced if you do.
The future of Western civilisation may not depend on whether you see this show, but your enjoyment of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival will be greatly enhanced if you do. As with his previous successful show on evolution, The Ape That Got Lucky, Addison takes a nice, broad theme, and then pretty much ignores it.
Well, perhaps that is slightly unfair, as he does make some general points under the headings he has chosen to punctuate the show, ruminating on City, Life, Rules and Rulers and A Sense of Identity, among others. While Ricky Gervais in Politics uses a lectern to add some authority to his unrelated musings, Addison introduces each section, as he did in The Ape That Got Lucky, with prompt cards on an easel. But that's about it as far as embellishment goes for Addison, who notes: "Unlike my fellow comedians, I couldn't afford a laptop," and chides those who do use one, "Very impressive, now write some jokes."
Don't be fooled by the affable, academic air of Addison, who looks and sounds a bit like a lanky Jeff Green - he has both bark and bite. Being a "posh-boy comic", he is acutely aware of the trappings of middle-class life, which are frequently a target. He suggests that there should be an apologetic ringtone for middle-class mobile-phone users, and weeds out the bourgeois members of the audience with his reference to gîte holidays. He is at his best, however, when he is himself being resolutely middle class, whether mocking the practitioners of text language ("Well, if I have to write the message out in full, I won't have time to see the person at all, will I?"), or insisting on the correct pronunciation of the word maths ("Well, one has to keep up standards, even in the low art forms.").
It's fun to see Addison get hot under the collar about such things, and indeed he is prone to ranting. Forget the forced tirade that he has to use to tie up the show, but revel in the zeal with which he lays into people who complain about speed cameras. Not only is this funny, but he is practically performing a public service by singling these people out.
Streetwise without being streetwise, Addison is rather quaint. He points out the tee-hee quality of an audience member's laugh without perhaps realising that his own laughter is of exactly the same quality. When he gets close to the bone, as he does with a routine about older people queuing up to get naked on commemorative WI-style calendars, he coyly offers: "Is that wrong?" an endearing catchphrase reminiscent of Jeff Green's "Have I gone to far?"
When a comedian allows himself a smile or a laugh at his own jokes, you know he is confident of his material, and when it works that is an infectious joy. Like the 5,500 years Addison claims to cover, time flies by because Civilization is easy. Easy links, easy laughter, but hard to fault.
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