This is not a comedy. That's not me being unnecessarily harsh this early on in the review - Adam Strauss told me so. In fact, it was the first thing this personable New Yorker said as he greeted the packed audience in the tiny back room of the Royal Mile Tavern. Explaining this rather odd opener, Strauss told us how he had booked his slot at the Fringe before actually writing the show and as such, we were to expect the next hour to be more of a 'comedic monologue... with the emphasis on the monologue'. So, a comedy show without much comedy? We were off to an unusual start.
Varieties Of Religious Experience lived up to its author's description. There was very little to laugh at, save for the odd agreeing murmur from the audience at Strauss' asides. He seemed like a likeable guy at first, as he told us about the bizarre grip OCD has had on him and how it came close to ruling and ruining his life. This is a show about how he tried to cure himself through the use of mind-expanding drugs. Lots of them. Over and over again. At one point he rattled on for about ten minutes - seemingly without pausing for breath - about trip after trip after trip. I almost felt like we should have quietly left the room while he relived the experience in private.
I found it a struggle to see what this show was, since much of it seemed like an extension of the speaker's ongoing therapy and recovery. If this show had been a talk at the Book Festival following the publication of his self-help manual, I would be raving about it. If he had been giving the keynote address at a conference on addiction, it would have hit the perfect note of angst-ridden self-deprecating revelation. As an hour's free stand-up at the Fringe, however, it falls very wide of the mark, because it just ain't that funny. The comic told me so himself.