Having recently won English Comedian of the Year, Josh Pugh has the air of a rising star. He’s confident but not cocky, immediately likeable, and a natural on stage. He introduces his show as a mission to get his life made into a film. This promises a lot but isn’t a premise which is stuck with through the whole show, being picked up briefly mid-way through and again at the very end.
A Boy Named Pugh is a great show, with a fantastic script and jokes that keep on coming
The show’s strength lies in some excellent writing throughout. The performance is filled with whimsy and Pugh’s on-stage persona has a charming awkwardness. There are some fantastically clever one liners and while he warns that his comedy is ‘a little bit weird’, it is fairly accessible for all, with moments of surreality being pleasantly amusing rather than ostracising for the audience. In the beginning however, some set-ups lack payoff and it feels as though the comedian is in a battle against the stifling heat of the room for the audience’s attention. Repeated improvisation of one-liners doesn’t appear to be massively successful, but it’s nice to see Pugh laughing at his own mistakes and not taking himself too seriously.
Going into the second half of the set, however, Pugh seems to get into his stride with some really good use of call-backs and a strong section about his new-found ability to stick up for himself, which he unfortunately immediately undermines by telling the audience it isn’t strong enough material for the show. It’s unfortunate that Pugh feels this self-deprecation is necessary as his material is undoubtedly strong enough without it. This also disrupts the momentum and rhythm which is strong until this point.
A Boy Named Pugh is a great show, with a fantastic script and jokes that keep on coming, it’s just a shame that the narrative hinted at initially is not really delivered. However, Pugh has a winning persona and jokes to match and will surely have an excellent run this Fringe.