John Lloyd has worked with some of this country’s most plaudit burdened comedians, many of whom cut their teeth on the mile and were discovered performing in the dingy venues of the Edinburgh Fringe from bygone days. Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Griff Rhys Jones and Mel Smith have all been through the ranks of this fair city and have all worked with Lloyd. Yet Lloyd himself, despite his comedy credentials and accolades, has never performed here. He is an Edinburgh veteran without any stripes.
I asked Lloyd why he had decided now, after so many years in the business, to bring a show to the Fringe, “I did a short bit for Douglas Adams' 60th birthday charity concert last year, just reading from The Meaning of Liff and such. My producer said 'I didn't know you could do that. Do it for one hour and we'll take it to Edinburgh'”. So we all have the producer to thank for Lloyd being here and thank her we should.
Hanging around the comedy elite has obviously rubbed off on Lloyd - his début performance has all the panache and confidence of war-torn Fringe veteran and his show, filled with side-splitting gags, mind-bending facts, revealing anecdotes from his career and genuinely touching reflection on a life well lived, is a joy from start to finish. He weaves together a number of parallel threads, his career, scientific development, hilarious letters of complaint from viewers, straight-up jokes, the recent history of the BBC into a seamless hour. There is no sagging as Lloyd shows the audience every step from the comedy trenches, right up to the corridors of power.
Admittedly, some may find the regular name-dropping tiresome but Lloyd avoids self-congratulation and develops the many famous faces who spring up throughout the story of his revered career into characters. Even Elton John, who has a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance in the Lloyd canon, feels like an astute and thoughtful caricature rather than a ‘famous-friends’ anecdote. What else would you expect from the man behind Spitting Image?
Lloyd has produced a joyous and thoughtful show, and despite his lack of Fringe field training he deserves a hero's welcome and the respect of the Comedy Commander he is.