13 August 2011

Phil Nichol - The Simple Hour

Phil Nichol: The Simple Hour - It's a sold out show, yet around a dozen seats are still empty - what do you do? Most comics would kick on and start the show, but Phil Nichol isn't most comics.


After a thoughtful consultation with his audience, it seems the decent thing to do is wait five more minutes for people who have been held up. Yet the audience still want to be entertained. So Nichol proceeds to break at least three golden rules of comedy, by giving over the mike to punter Tarquin Delaney, who had the temerity to request Only Gay Eskimo. Delaney takes the stage, Nichol takes a place in the audience… so when latecomers turn up, they must wonder what madness this is. The answer is it's Phil Nichol's madness.

Is there another comic who would stop a show when heckled about the origin of the Mah Nà Mah Nà song - and get away with it? Having argued with almost every member of the audience, Nichol insisted people get their phones out to find whether it was actually first used on Sesame Street or The Muppets (it was Sesame Street). When Nichol is proved right, he jubilantly straddles chairs in the front row shouting joyous profanities to the audience in celebration.

His Simple Hour is clearly not suitable for his Born Again Christian parents, although that was his aim. Simple it maybe in name, but it is expertly delivered and perfectly timed. True, a small part of his material has been reprised from previous shows but you can't hold Nichol to a higher standard than other performers, and he's already won the highest award Edinburgh can bestow.

We return a couple of times to Nichol's trusty guitar, which is some of the best playing seen at the festival. He finally delivers his oft requested Only Gay Eskimo; while his final song contains so much trademark Nichol intensity that he breaks a string, but still finishes his performance.

The simple truth is that Nichol is at his best when acting, either delivering stunning stories like Nearly Gay or The Naked Racist, or in more pronounced characters such as the dead poet Bobby Spade. But even as himself, he still bests most other comics and gives audiences huge laughter for their money. The Simple Hour is very funny hour of madness, mayhem and magic, as only Nichol has mastered.


8/10 for the unique Phil Nichol, a personal favourite over the years.