Ted Hill is incredibly brave for putting on his show, All The Presidents Man, which in itself is a very clever title. But otherwise, this show stumbles and it’s hard to see exactly what makes it funny.
The main problem with Hill’s show is that it doesn’t feel like stand-up, but rather like a presentation of random facts about all the US Presidents. It’s filled with quips rather than punchlines, for example the idea of Big Bird on the Challenger, which admittedly I have been thinking about quite often since seeing this show. Even an anti-vaxxer joke about Microsoft (which is prime comedy material in this day and age) falls a little flat. The show is quite safe, there's nothing particularly daring in the jokes themselves. It is also reliant on us having some vague knowledge of the presidents (luckily, for myself there were only two that I wasn’t familiar with). The minimum knowledge that we need in order to appreciate this show is a familiarity with John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, which would make certain parts less uncomfortable, especially when it comes to Lyndon Johnson. Despite rationally knowing that all previous presidents have done really bad things both domestically and internationally, I definitely felt uncomfortable several times during this show, mainly because it seemed like they were being personally attacked rather than their policies, which for me, is just odd an odd source of comedy.
With break-neck speed, Hill rattles off facts and graphics at a pace that makes it hard to process the joke before he moves onto the next. In order to laugh we need to think about what he says a little more than normal, but with the speed that Hill is going, there isn’t a lot of time to do so. There’s a lot of information to process in this show and whilst it is relatively impressive the amount of work Hill has put into the different graphs and visual aids in his presentation, it is very clear what he means by 'high effort, low reward'.
All the Presidents Man doesn’t flow naturally, it jumps around from president to president in a kind of eclectic way, which thankfully Hill does explain to us. Whilst Hill is honest about why the show is the way that it is, it doesn’t make it any less confusing or disjointed. His vulnerability is admirable, but it almost turns the show into a motivational/self-help seminar of some sort rather than a comedy routine.
All the Presidents Man is stylistically unique, but doesn’t quite work as stand-up. There are some interesting ideas here that would be more appropriate for a 2am conversation with friends rather than a stand-up show at the Edinburgh Fringe. Perhaps Ted Hill is a comedian ahead of his time or this show needs tweaking, but whatever it is, watching All the Presidents Man is definitely an experience.