This time next year, the Assembly George Square Theatre will not be big enough to contain David O’Doherty. Nor will Murrayfield stadium. At the rate he’s going, he says, next year’s show will be performed from a balloon hovering over Old Town, O’Doherty with mega-phone in hand. If this is a troubling image, rest assured that he’s exaggerating for comic effect. The Irishman, who won the Comedy Award in 2008, has been coming to the Fringe since 2000. You get the sense that if he is going to go stratospheric, it would have happened by now. But that misses the point; O’Doherty’s confidence is indicative of a comic at the top of his game.
His has retained in his act the childlike amazement at the small things in life, adding to the mix a more mature, misanthropic element.
Due to the vagaries of the Assembly Rooms ticketing system, I did not receive a ticket for the show I was originally scheduled to attend. Whatever twist of fate made it so, the show I missed saw O’Doherty recovering from a bout of food-poisoning; the one I was allocated in exchange was the prime-time slot of midnight on Friday. Before he appeared onstage the atmosphere was buzzing, and O’Doherty clearly fed off this as soon as he stepped out.
In recent times, he has added more bite to his low-energy musical whimsy act, engaging with more social issues, all the while maintaining his signature playfulness. This year’s show sees him pick up where he left off last year, addressing the general sort of unease that permeates his day-to-day existence. His sense of disappointment with events in his life ties the seemingly disparate assortment of anecdotes together – from his despair at being gifted the wrong type of Star Wars action figures as a child to his less-than-dignified celebrations following the recent marriage referendum result in Ireland. His has retained in his act the childlike amazement at the small things in life, adding to the mix a more mature, misanthropic element (there are airs of Dylan Moran somewhere in there).
And of course, there’s the keyboard. Not used as often now (he is more mobile around the stage), it still gives O’Doherty the opportunity to hammer home through song a particular point, or provide a vehicle for easing us through unexpected shifts in tone or direction.
The once curious side-act has hit the big-time and comedy audiences are all the better for it.