When life gives you lemons, those with an optimistic, can-do attitude invariably suggest you make lemonade. Bright-eyed, eager-to-please Johnny Cochrane certainly embodies this positive approach to life, not least by capitalising on how his name sounds the same as O J Simpson’s famous lawyer Jonnie Cochran. Closer to home, this particular Johnny also opts to focus his debut Edinburgh Fringe Show (a genuine challenge, and now a vital stage in any stand-up performer’s career) on what makes a Hit Debut Edinburgh Fringe Show.
The more Johnny Cochrane relaxes into his material, and the less he relies on comedic crutches to support his humour, the greater his Appeal is likely to be.
To ensure he doesn’t wander off-subject – an apparent weakness that we sadly never experience – Johnny has prompt cards in his hands and a pre-prepared PowerPoint presentation which he asks an audience member to operate on his behalf. The point of both is to ensure he keeps to what he believes are the five vital ingredients for any Hit Debut Edinburgh Fringe Show. Namely: to be diverse, relatable, recognisable, political and sexy. He has diversity nailed, of course, being a mixed-race lad from Essex; there’s also little doubting his inoffensive “salt of the Earth” everyman persona. As for recognisability, presenting some of his previous on-screen appearances – which are not quite what you might expect – inspire many of the biggest laughs in the show.
Yet, if Johnny is making lemonade, he’s still a tad too keen to dazzle us with cooking utensils; a few potentially interesting verbal flights of fancy are pinned down by PowerPoint like a butterfly collection. Also, though the screen is physically behind him, there’s a sense that Johnny’s actually hiding behind the technology; as if he doesn’t yet have full confidence in his own material. Another example is how gets members of the audience to read out positive comments about himself and the show; amusing once, perhaps twice (depending on the lack of performance skills being employed) but the repetition doesn’t hit the mark in terms of being funny.
An unexpected feature of the PowerPoint, incidentally, is the occasional switch to an alleged live feed from a backstage CCTV camera; initially, this just seems to be an unusual way for Johnny to introduce himself before he actually emerges from behind the curtain – we get a glimpse of someone getting the adrenalin going, telling himself that it’s “time to shine”. But, as the show progresses, a backstage narrative builds up that brings the show to a somewhat unexpected conclusion. Alas, Johnny isn’t quite a sufficiently natural actor to totally hit the emotional mark with this, but credit for at least attempting something genuinely different.
The more Johnny Cochrane relaxes into his material, and the less he relies on comedic crutches to support his humour, the greater his Appeal is likely to be. One to watch, definitely, but preferably not in PowerPoint.