Despite the title, it transpires that Joz Norris is not dead, but is merely busy having a bath. This begins the unexpected and delightfully unpredictable course that this show-within-a-show takes, and frankly I was extremely grateful for Joz’ extended ablutions as it allowed the deeply layered yet weird character of Mr Fruit Salad to emerge.
The most flamboyant extreme introvert at the Fringe
“Like trying to put your hand around smoke” – a simile favoured by Mr Fruit Salad throughout the show – perfectly sums up the challenge of trying to encapsulate all the effective tones and styles that this show pulls off.
The main premise of Mr Fruit Salad’s surreal performance is that he is unable to manage more than a very brief interlude on “Bombay Bicycle Burritos” as conventional stand-up, relying instead on reassuring audience interaction and multiple ‘theme songs’, set to soothing lounge music, to counter his crippling performance anxiety. Yet he is the most flamboyant and engaging self-labelled extreme introvert that you will find at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Perhaps the most unexpected and rewarding parts of the show were those where Fruit Salad opened himself up to sincere self-scrutiny and shared some of his deepest anxieties with the audience, even if his assured presence made these insecurities ultimately unwarranted. There are also plenty of visual gags, and visual gags on visual gags not working, to break up and contrast this tone. Watching Mr Fruit Salad doing the ’flossing dance’ to ambient music, whilst ruminating on grief, is surprisingly mesmerising. Fruit Salad regards Werner Herzog and Carl Sagan as central inspirations for his work, retaining on stage the manner of a demented Chuckle Brother. Genuinely uplifting, philosophical and thoughtful, as well as silly and slapstick, the room was laughing and thoughtful in equal measure.
Praise is also deserved for Joz Norris’ writing, which pulls off the significant feat of subverting the very idea of character comedy. Coming on stage to lament Fruit Salad’s performance, with the assistance of equally alternative comedian Ben Target, he literally covers up his character for use again the next day, subverting the concept of characters used in a show, as just another prop to be put away in a Laurel and Hardy-style routine. Bring on Joz’ bathtime tomorrow.