Joseph Parsons: Equaliser

Swept up by the Lionesses’ historic win at the Euros, I booked to see Joseph Parsons: Equaliser. Billed as being a gay sports fan’s take “for those who love the beautiful game and those who don't”, this was a bit of a punt. I’m a straight woman, and don’t generally follow or enjoy sport at all (excluding the occasional major event and Formula 1) – could Parsons win points with me?

Strongest when he’s at his most fierce

His set kicks off with an interview, recorded in classic pre-match style. The usual sponsors on the backdrop have been replaced by some unlikely brands – can anyone imagine Lovehoney sponsoring say, Man United? It turns out these are a subtle set-up for later mentions in Parsons’ set. It’s this attention to detail and dedication that makes Parsons stand out, but despite his on-stage energy, the rest of the performance shows that this is a comedian still building his confidence.

Like most comedians, Parsons taps into his personal pain and previous embarrassments to draw out relatable nuggets. It’s no holds barred featuring topics such as attempting to overcome urinal shyness, teenage changing room insecurities, and bar-based conversations with acquaintances who think he’s straight. Charming and likeable, it’s easy to warm to him even when not all the jokes land as expected. Thankfully he’s observant enough to quickly move on and focus on the home runs, such as his demonstration of how homoerotic World Cup song lyrics can be.

Parsons is strongest when he’s at his most fierce, and his default light-hearted touch sometimes undermines the potential potency of his jokes. There’s lots wrong with sport, perhaps particularly in football, and there were missed opportunities to include even more barbed attacks on decisions such as the choice to host this year’s World Cup in the decidedly un-gay friendly country of Qatar.

The highlight of the hour, like many tense football matches, is the final five minutes: a hilarious full-length World Cup song contender. This impressively edited video is a delight, and it’s actually a pretty well-written song to boot. Ok, it’s not quite Three Lions, but it’s certainly better than most of the competition anthems destined to be listened to once before being forgotten forever. It seems that Parsons' real confidence is in his pre-recorded musical material, and given his obvious musical talent is it would be wise for him to lean into this more in the future.

Equaliser might not be a championship winning show yet, but Parsons safely scores enough goals to ensure he won’t be heading for relegation this Fringe. Take your seat in the stand, buy a drink from the bar, and get ready to cheer Parsons on.

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Reviews by Elanor Parker

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★★★★
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Joseph Parsons: Equaliser

★★★
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★★★★★
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Aidan Goatley: Tenacious

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Performances

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The Blurb

Rising star Joseph Parsons presents his hotly anticipated debut hour of comedy about being a gay sports fan. This show looks at the joy of sport for those who love the beautiful game and those who don't. As heard on the BBC's LGBT Sports Podcast. Parsons was dubbed as one of the '10 must-see LGBTQ+ shows of the Fringe, 2019' (TheEdinburghFringe.com). 'Very high energy, well-written material' (The Stand).

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