Edinburgh Festival Review – Josh Howie

Josh Howie’s Gran Slam is at times virtuosic, but something’s not quite right, says Paul Fleckney.

Josh_Howie3For a show with such a wealth of jokes – and damn fine ones at that – it’s a bit of a mystery as to why Gran Slam doesn’t quite work.

The premise is intrinsically amusing – the man who moved out of his mum’s to move into his gran’s, with his girlfriend. The show is also refreshingly free of sentiment given there is plenty of scope for it, Howie casting himself as the spoilt brat who is completely insensitive to his elderly relative and landlord.

And that joke rate – it’s relentless, with many gags seemingly finished before there’s an added twist, and another, and another. He pulls you all over the place with different weapons in the comedian’s armoury. There is the glorious groaner (“I made a vow to my agent that being Jewish is no longer going to be my schtick”), wordplay (“Israel’s attitude to Palestinian land; it’s just borderline racism”), a running gag of his incessant tea making and bags of irony. Most of all, as ever with Howie, a lot of mischief making, such as his brilliant analogy between the Middle East conflict and the Tesco kosher section, a pearler about reality show My Super Sweet Sixteen and a cunning Baby P joke that doesn’t really get noticed. He also manages to sneak in some wickedly funny paedophilia and masturbation gags into his banter with a bemused family that includes two teenage children.

This is all done while telling the story of his attempts to buy a house and marry his girlfriend, and not one line is fluffed. Yet still, it fails to make any impact on the audience. It seems a ridiculous criticism of a comedy show but are there too many jokes in here? Is there such a range of gags from the cheesy to the obscure to the controversial, that he is constantly splitting the room?

Some comedians will pad a solid 20 minutes into an hour show and get away with it, Howie has done the opposite – taken some virtuosic joke writing and failed to convert it into a memorable hour. But then it’s all about the final product, not how you get there. If ever there was a show that was less than the sum of the parts, this was it. Maybe next year …

Three stars
Josh Howie: Gran Slam is on at 9.45pm at Pleasance Courtyard, click here for booking.

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