Edinburgh Festival review – Doc Brown

Doc Brown’s debut displays his considerable rapping talents, which he puts to brilliant use on the comedy stage.

doc_brown2If you want star quality in a debutant, go to Doc Brown, real name Ben Smith. The rapper-turned-comic is a consummate performer who has come up with a debut show of impressive versatility and big laughs.

Of course it’s by no means the only introspective autobiographical show at the Fringe, but Brown’s stands out firstly because his story is very different to other comics’. This is the man who had super-fame on a plate, rapping alongside some serious unit shifters – Mark Ronson, Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse – but instead shied away and has ended up performing comedy to about 30 people in a Scottish sweatbox. Hence the title.

It’s a interesting journey with some predictable if honest conclusions: that fame is ugly close up and he loves being a father after all (there was a bit of a wobble), but it’s the force of Brown’s talent that stays with you afterwards.

He illustrates his conversion from ambitious fame-hungry youth to contented father with raps – one as a self-righteous teenager preaching an anti-smoking message, another a stab at anti-government sentiment during his time as a stoner, and an ode to the old-school equipment he is using (an overhead-projector). It’s mightily impressive, vocally dextrous and witty.

There’s a little musical satire as well, gently ribbing the rap genre in the scene-setting opener and an aggressive, explicit rap he imagines dropping into the middle of Amy Winehouses’ cover of Valerie. His audience chat shows the guy has a sharp mind, too, and in losing a rap battle to a card in the crowd, demonstrated humility and the ability to spot when to let something go because it got the big laugh he wanted. He certainly isn’t over-reliant on the rapping for good material.

Brown is a solid headline act on the circuit with undoubted talent, but Unfamous is even better than his circuit work hints at. Judging by this show – which doesn’t require much prior exposure to rap to enjoy – and the fans lining up to quiz him afterwards, he shouldn’t be unfamous for long.

Four stars
Doc Brown: Unfamous is on at Pleasance Courtyard at 7pm at the Pleasance Courtyard, click here for booking.

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