Review – Ivo Graham, Bow Ties and Johnnies

Ivo Graham comes of age in his second Edinburgh offering

Ivo-Graham1Oof, goodness me this is a brilliant 60 minutes of stand-up. What we have here is a 23-year-old who writes not so much like other stand-ups, but like PG bloomin’ Wodehouse. Without wanting to sound like an English teacher, the precision of Ivo Graham’s vocabulary and elegance of his prose are sublime.

Add to that his effortless timing and an ability to wring every drop of comedy from words such as “swab” or “nicoise” and you have one hell of a stand-up. Yet he arrives onstage like a lost orphan, and visibly nervous. His lack of confidence – and his apparent “low status” as he repeatedly calls it – is one of the main themes of Bow Ties and Johnnies. That and public schools.

The show is something of a juggling act. Graham is getting a lonely childhood off his chest, while acknowledging that public schoolboys mostly don’t deserve our sympathy, while trying to persuade us that they’re not all arrogant wankers, while also admitting that young men with issues is hardly an original Edinburgh act. And so on.

Luckily for him, he’s impossible to dislike, and incredibly funny. The show is a mine of personal anecdotes – about being the kid at the sleepover who bonds with the parents then sends them a “fucking good” thank you letter, and who sought solace in intellectual tasks like memorising all the world’s countries, and who is now amazed at having got a girlfriend. And there’s a lot of comedy gold in there.

The only quibble is that there is really only one direction of travel to this show, so Graham is essentially repeating the same point, albeit deliciously. Mixing things up a little, or taking things down an unexpected channel would help (the one occasion he does introduce some tension – the finale – gets probably the biggest laugh of the night). But then, this feels like a show that Graham has been working up to all his life. And the emotions still seems quite raw, so it’s hardly unsurprising that he’s a) got a lot of material on it and b) some of it is a little unprocessed.

Ultimately, there’s no getting away from the fact that there is barely a lull in the laughter. He even turns to his advantage the unscheduled interruptions, such as unruly audience members or a minor error with a prop. Graham really is turning into a sensational stand-up. You could even say that he already is one.

**4.5 stars**
Review written by Paul Fleckney

Ivo Graham, Bow Ties and Johnnies, is at the Pleasance Courtyard at 8.15pm

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