Richard Brown: Hold Tightly to the Walls

For some Fringe performers, their tech gremlins are the cute ones from the movie franchise. They cause a little bit of feedback on the mic or delay the lighting cues by half a second: a nuisance, but not the end of the world. For others, Richard Brown included, they are in full-on, water-after-midnight mode and they’re running the venue. There’s a projector in the room, but you’re not allowed to use it. A gig which deals in part with the politics of nationalism takes place in a room, the walls of which are plastered with national flags. The room itself is separated from a noisy sports bar by a ragged curtain.

If you like your comedy dark and combative, with a touch of bleak optimism, give this a go.

First off, credit where credit’s due to Brown for battling through three weeks of this. As a one off, on the day of the review, he has managed to get a loan of a projector and it’s quiet at the bar. So far so good. Brown holds it together and delivers an hour full of promise.

Like so many before him, Brown does a strong line in west coast of Scotland cynicism (it must be something in the water over there). This is offset by some nifty multimedia work, which is peppered throughout the show. Brown opens with a short video based on a mash-up of election flyers he received in the lead up to June’s vote. Poor Patrick Harvie doesn’t deserve what happens to him in this hardcore collage but it sets the irreverent tone for the rest of the gig.

The projector work makes comparisons to Richard Gadd inevitable but what makes Brown’s stuff different is the mischievousness that peeks through once every so often. He wears his political views on his sleeve but doesn’t let it get in the way of a good gag (visual or verbal) when he sees one; the section on filming and taking pictures of astronaut Chris Hadfield being a case in point.

When it comes to the actual business of standup, Brown is more than solid. Riffs on the banality (and worse) of our celebrity culture, Tory party hypocrisy, and the generation gap are the stock in trade of any decent political comic, but Brown comes at them with a dynamism that belies his apparent cynicism. It’s as a writer rather than a performer that his strength lies. Whereas some comics rely on a reserve of confidence to carry them through their weaker sections, or the traditional Edinburgh forty minute-mark slump, Brown can seem at times a touch put off by the failure of some gags to land dead on. A few more layers of polish could make a huge difference to the hour.

It’s probably for the best that he decided to dispose of the beard before August. As the inimitable Copstick has already noted, and as is confirmed by a clip of Brown advertising his patented Scottish canned shower gin, it makes it all-to-easy to confuse Brown with a young Frankie Boyle. The comparisons with his fellow Weegie don’t end there though. If you like your comedy dark and combative, with a touch of bleak optimism, give this a go.

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The Blurb

Richard Brown brings a bleak, misanthropic and subversive show about politics, pornography and suicide to the comedy section of the Fringe. 'Fearless in his comedy, dark and, when he turns his comic venom on himself, brutal… Bleak and frequently brilliant stuff. Comedy needs Richard Brown. More than it knows' (Scotsman). 'Engaging, creative and subversive' ( 'This mix of bleakly misanthropic wordy stand-up and Gadd-esque dark theatrics deserves a bigger crowd' ( 'Utterly unique and impossibly inventive' (Skinny). 'Richie Brown is not for the casual viewer' (List).