Phil Mann : Nothingism

Cowgate, Bar 50  

Aug 5-27 : (16.45)

PWYL

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Material :five-stars  Delivery : three-stars  Laughs : three-stars

Comedians are clever people, yes, but Phil Mann is a genius. Not a comedy genius, although he is a pretty funny geezer, but seems to possess a wikipedia’s worth of fun & imagination in the creative whirpools of his soul. This is Mann’s tenth year in Edinburgh – he’s a highly-trained actor as well, so he must lead something of a romantic life, one thinks.

Loosely based on the theme of the abstract state of ‘nothingness’ Mann’s show is essentially one-man improv session, but remarkable in the fact the only person he really has to bounce off is himself. Beginning the show by nicking someones phone in order to create the soundtrack of the hour, & after the audience filled the blanks in several ‘read out’ cards, Mann proceeded to imagine this wee wonder;

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Scene 1: Big Butts A man who loves big butts and cannot lie is seeing a therapist in a hospital atop a mountain peak. He reveals issues about his past, his Dad, his life. The therapist is concerned about the size of his own butt. 
Scene 2: Canada — (Silent scene) Two bears fight and then make out. Two lumberjacks stumble upon them. They make out. Then the bears and the lumberjacks make out. 
Scene 3: Technology — A student invents a machine that writes essays for him. It writes “Vindication of the Rights of Bears by Bear-y Woolstonecraft.” They decide to publish. 
Scene 4: TV SHOW: Dexter — Dexter finds a serial killer that likes bad stuff, so he has to torture him by being nice. 
Scene 5: Big ButtsThe hospital detaches from it’s peak and slides towards certain death. The therapist and New Yorker realise they can save themselves and cure the NYer of his Big Butt fetish by inflating the NYer’s butt and using it as wings to fly to safety. 
Scene 6: Canada The Bear, now in a relationship with the lumberjack, manipulates him into not cutting down any more trees because if there’s no woods, then no bears can shit in the woods, then no truth can exist and he’ll ruin philosophy. 
Scene 7: Technology — The professor arrives and is dismayed to find that not only have his students made bears all powerful and stopped logging, but have actually created something new which is totally not the purpose of academia: you’re just meant to research things that already exist and write about it in another essay. 
Scene 8: VIDEO GAME: Car Crash Comedians 4: In order to win the game you have to find James May and beat him to death with a baseball bat, while he is crawling out the wreckage of a car crash. 
Scene 9: (Synthesis of all scenes:) The bear is killed by the flying therapy hospital as it flies past on the massive buttcheeks of the NYer. The lumberjack falls in love with a rabbit instead. The rabbit reveals “Vindication of the Rights of Rabbits” written by the Essay Machine indicating the whole cycle might start again…

And this quick-thinking wit ninja did all it so bloody well…

Reviewer : Damian Beeson Bullen

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THE MUMBLE  – Your show is a unique creation, what is the idea behind Nothingism:
PHIL MANN – It is a unique creation — even amongst the improv crowd, although most have been very supportive, some people have given me a very hostile reaction when I tell them what I’m doing.  People don’t like you breaking the mould.
Nothingism is inspired by my love of art galleries and a number of paintings I’ve always loved. One of my favourite periods in art is the really weird one just after the turn-of-the-century. The Futurists, the Surrealists, the Dadaists were all very passionate about what is a collection of very weird, and very silly art. Passionate enough to riot in the streets, smash up theatres and galleries, get into massive brawls — I wanted to have a bash at creating my own movement that would do the same thing: take itself seriously and do an incredible amount of terrible things, but also be silly and funny at the same time.
I wanted to create an organisation that stood for nothing, meant nothing, did nothing, but also seemed to be behind everything major. Like a form of minimalism that did everything as well as nothing.
I am therefore extremely frustrated when after the show people tell me that Nothingism obviously meant something and represented something in particular (which they always seem to do) as I have gone out of my way to create a world which makes no sense and is a complete waste of everyone’s time.

THE MUMBLE –  This is your tenth trip to the fringe are you any wiser since your first about material

PHIL MANN – I’ve learned not to do stuff I don’t like. Some people have an attitude that “you can make a joke about anything” and that means you can say offensive stuff. I prefer to see it that if you are able to make a joke about anything, why would you waste that opportunity to make dick jokes and mock people worse off than you, when you can make a joke about anything else, and fill your show with amazing stuff.
I’ve learned to put myself in my shows wholly and chase what it is I love and hope an audience will follow me down that path instead of trying to make myself into something that already exists. I remember doing a show when I started out with a lot of “…and if you’ve met my ex-girlfriend…” type stuff. And I just can’t pull that off. I am weird, thoughtful, I love sci-fi, I love dystopia, I love long, complicated sentences, I love testing the boundaries of what is a joke, I prefer funny concepts over snappy punchlines. And I’ve gradually found an audience who likes that too.
THE MUMBLE- What is it about Edinburgh  that makes you keep coming back
PHIL MANN – That I can do my show here: it offers an opportunity to see shows and be seen, to do a full-length show without having to do ten-minute spots (which I don’t like doing, if I’m honest), and I don’t feel pressured to be anything but myself doing what I love. Being able to see six shows a day on my days off. Being able to flit between friends, bars, shows that I love and know someone in every pot-hole. Tramping around the gothic streets of black stone. Eating badly, drinking too much, watching the sun rise every day, throwing myself around in sweaty rooms in front of crowds. What’s not to love?
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