Phil O’Shea – Edinburgh Festival review

It’s hard enough to crack a smile in Belushi’s let alone laugh out loud. So hats off to Phil O’Shea, an inspired and imaginative young stand-up with a bright future

Phil_O'Shea1Well this is what the Fringe – in particular the Free Fringe – is here for. Wee gems of shows from comics who are far from the industry radar. Every day, just over the road from the Waverley station, Phil O’Shea is weaving a peculiar kind of comedy magic that could easily have come from Simon Munnery or Ross Noble. Munnery in particular, given O’Shea’s ability to drop in esoteric references while keeping it light and accessible. (Note that the picture above is not Phil, it’s one of his illustrations).

This happens in front of about 10-15 people a day at one of the least-desired venues in Edinburgh. There are some good venues out there on the fringes of the Fringe, and Belushi’s on Market Street isn’t one of them. It’s hard to know where the bar ends and the comedy venue begins. Any comedian trying to perform or punter hoping to listen to a show is up against it, as it’s the sort of place where someone might saunter in pint in hand, take a call, hang up, yawn, fart and leave.

As it happens, O’Shea patrols the area very well. The lad’s too pale and skinny to intimidate anyone into silence, instead he’s got people laughing – the strongest possible indicator that a comedy show is currently happening. He is relaxed and unfazed enough by the circumstances that it rubs off on his crowd.

O’Shea’s material is surreal and silly, and his paper, scissor stone joke will be one of my Fringe favourites this year. He’s not as self-consciously surreal than Ross Noble, and works more in circles than Noble’s straight lines, but the way he fully commits to his flights of fancy is very Noble-esque. Paul Foot-esque as well. And there’s some Josie Long and John Hegley thrown in too (animal whimsy, drawings). But the nicest thing is O’Shea’s comedy that it’s undoubtedly his. His influences are worn very lightly, subsumed into his personality, rather than dominating it.

He only performs for half an hour when he could comfortably do more, which shows an empathy for his audience and the gig’s circumstances that will serve him well. Some tightening would make him better: the material is nicely paced, but as with many newer comics, the gap between set-up and punchline can dilute the overall effect. But O’Shea should be heartened that he is surely only a few tweaks and x hours of stage time before he’s an in-demand comedian.

This is barely a gig, given the venue and paltry crowd, but if you want to see an inspired young comedian with ideas to spare and a bright future ahead, then go to O’Shea.

4 stars

Phil O’Shea is on at Belushi’s at 3.40pm
Review written by Paul Fleckney

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