Chris Turner: Observational Tragedy

Last year Chris Turner brought a show about his physical wellbeing to the Edinburgh stage, blending stand-up and rapping to explore his brushes with mortality. This year he uses that same approach but turns the spotlight on cerebral matters. It’s a tremendously entertaining experience which is by turns funny, touching and jaw-droppingly inventive.

Chris Turner is a talented and likable comedian

The bulk of the show draws from those familiar wells of comic material, childhood and romance. However Turner isn’t so interested in the subjects themselves but rather how his mind, while excellent at retaining facts, can’t hold onto the experiential memories of childhood and romance that people cherish as they get older. For example Turner might not remember the hairdresser using a bowl when it came to styling the comedian’s hair when he was a nipper, but despite his protestations the photographic evidence suggests he certainly did.

Before really attacking this subject the audience is treated to an taste of Turner’s ability on the mic. The comedian is a prodigiously talented freestyle rapper so it’s a delight when he takes a fistful of audience suggestions and weaves them together in intricate rhymes over a Cypress Hill beat. The quality and complexity of the lyrics is superb and the verse he puts together contains several very amusing punch-lines. The blend of quick wit, sharp mind and lyrical dexterity is not only funny, it’s also very impressive.

Having such a stand-out talent is a fantastic resource for Turner to draw on, but it also puts a lot of pressure on the rest of the comedian’s material. Fortunately the jokes stand up well, albeit lacking the wow factor of the rapping. Sure a few of the gags have less than subtle set-ups eliciting groans before the laughs hit home but the laughs do hit home. A particularly memorable Cliff Richard pun is evidence of that.

The second half of the show contains more reflective and melancholy moments. The shift in mood is borne out when Turner returns to the mic for his second freestyling section. This time members of the audience are encouraged to offer special childhood memories which the comedian connects over a hook which has a great deal of sentimental value to him. The linguistic display remains remarkable proving that when it comes to short-term memory the comedian certainly has nothing to worry about.

The end of the show is touching, thought-provoking and very funny. Chris Turner is a talented and likable comedian and in this show he showcases talents which will live long in the memory, even without the aid of post-it note reminders.

Reviews by Alec Martin

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The Blurb

'I saw a butterfly flying out to sea. It will get lost out there and die' (Iris Murdoch, The Sandcastle). Long-limbed award winner grapples with memory (his) and memories (yours). A comedy show full of 'truly masterful gags, crafted with intellectual panache' ( and head-spinning, heartbreaking freestyles. 'The best show I've reviewed in seven years' **** (List). 'Unashamedly clever and sparklingly original' **** ( 'Mines for laughs in esoteric places, consistently digs up comedy gold' **** (West Australian). 'A virtuoso... a hip-hop machine, the best freestyle joker the world done seen' (Guardian).