THE new show from Andrew O’Neill was nominated for best comedy at the Adelaide Fringe back in March, so there was a real buzz about it long before it landed on these shores.
Even early on in its Edinburgh run – I caught O’Neill at one of his preview shows – it was already clear there would be a captive audience for it here, just as there had been Down Under earlier in the year.
Admittedly, it’s a lot more tame than his previous shows. In the past, O’Neill has made jokes about Ian Huntley’s alibi and housing made from the corpses of children.
Clearly, that sort of stuff isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but maybe he became conscious that his writing lacked mainstream appeal because his new material is a lot less likely to offend than his older stuff.
A self-proclaimed heavy-metal-loving, vegan transvestite, the O’Neill of 2012 is a charming, charismatic comic, who is clearly comfortable in his own skin.
In this one-hour show, the young stand-up, who many will have seen on Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle and heard on Radio 1 and Radio 5 Live, offers a mix of witty anecdotes and audience interaction with the odd surreal moment.
Among other things, he recounts an uncomfortable taxi incident with a well-kent face, explains why the internet is the most distracting thing ever invented, and uses some disturbing bee swarm sound effects at various points in the show.
It’s carefully crafted comedy for the most part, though occasionally he loses the thread – purposely, it has to be said, hence the title of the show.
Not all of the jokes work, but most of them, if not producing big belly laughs, at least earn hearty applause.
O’Neill is appearing in a modest, 50-seater hut at the rear end of the Pleasance Courtyard this year, and it gives a real sense of intimacy.
Noisy, inebriated audiences can be a problem at some late-night shows, but not for this fella, who knows how to handle a heckler.
Sure, there are bigger-name comedians on the Fringe this year, but sometimes it’s good to put them to one side and spend an hour in the company of one of the stars of tomorrow.
Andrew O’Neill is certainly one of those.
• Until August 27