For half an hour in a room somewhere in the back of the Free Sisters, Adam Belbin is doing a comedy show about leaving the comedy world. No stranger to the Fringe, his brand of near-car-crash comedy has been packing out tiny rooms like this one for four years now, but it sounds like the high point of his comedic career has, unfortunately, passed. The room is still full, though – so much so that he started early – and the collection glass at the end of this Free Fringe gig still clinks with appreciation.
This is a show which shrugs its way through jokes and a comedian with nothing to prove.
What keeps drawing audiences in is his honest and stripped-back comedic style. The show is half-baked, jokes unfinished, and laughs often come after a few seconds' silence when it's taken everyone a moment to wrap their head around a quickly-delivered slow-burner. Many gags would be rejected from the category of Dad Joke for not being funny enough, but the laugh comes anyway because of how unfunny it was and how unapologetic Belbin is about it all. Quietly confident without being arrogant, the overall impression is that, unlike so many others on the circuit, Belbin doesn't need to perform comedy for his ego's sake: he just likes doing it. His term-time teaching job no doubt demands much the same skills as his Fringe-time endeavors, and this extra practice at keeping a room's attention through sheer bluff has paid off. This is a hard type of comedy to make work, and though it's still early days for this particular show, Belbin seems to be pulling it off.
This is a show which shrugs its way through jokes and a comedian with nothing to prove. In a Fringe where racy, sweary comedians are still making the big bucks and still others are pouring all their time, money, blood, sweat and tears into the month, perhaps Belbin's offbeat comedy is not for everyone. If you like well-meaning Londoners who switch from lisping through a poorly-worded joke to verbose self-reflection, however, head to the Free Sisters at five before the room fills up.