Graham’s carefully balanced mix of anecdote, social comment and wit is as fresh and sharp as ever
As Graham appears onstage to a packed Pleasance Cabaret Bar, where he made his first Edinburgh performance as a vulnerable nineteen year-old years before, he comfortably emanates a genuine feeling of friendliness. Comedy is a multi-headed beast but there seems to be something to be said for approaching audiences with warmth. The usual gags about his slow descent into adulthood and his easily-targeted sex life are back, but with the deeper level of his recent engagement. Graham’s carefully balanced mix of anecdote, social comment and wit is as fresh and sharp as ever. The angles at which he approaches situations is genuinely unique and his attention to detail when interrogating the extent of a subject’s hilarity is thrilling. A tangent regarding Graham’s fandom of Thomas the Tank Engine is typical of his hysterical style, without feeling too tired yet. Old Thomas and a reverence for the rail system is called back toward the end of the show, as Graham asks for the audience’s favourite rail stations. This is either to establish a narrative through the symbolism of journeys, or to replicate a similar audience interaction system to last year’s Educated Guess, which had him guess details about MPs with audience members acting as quiz masters.
Narrative is key here. It seems to be the accepted standard at today’s Fringe for a stand up show to involve more than just an hour of material. It also needs to have a journey for its subject, and Graham’s previous efforts have all fallen into this category. While Motion Sickness should be perhaps the strongest of these due to the sudden enormousness of the events in Graham’s life - marriage, moving out, the possibility of children etc - it comes across as the weakest and arguably least personal in this aspect. More than this, it appeared at times that he was regurgitating words written and solidified long ago; the spontaneity that separates performing stand up comedy from making a comedic speech not always apparent.
However, Graham vocalised a previously unrevealed tone in this year’s show as he proceeded to hilariously investigate why he was saying what he was saying before our eyes. This included an analysis of his old Etonian U.S.P. It felt like a thoroughly interesting change of pace, as we were invited in for a proper backstage look at his process.
It is easy to read the politeness existent in Graham’s manner even now, many years after he handed out handwritten thank you notes to his audience members at Bow Ties and Johnnies. And while we received no such gift after Motion Sickness, we did feel once again thoroughly charmed as we left, still laughing and with aching bellies. The only thing left to say is congratulations Ivo and Bride!