Sam Russell: Lucky Bastard

Just the Tonic @ The Caves

August 2-12, 14-26 (16.55)

Material:four-stars.png Delivery: four-stars.png   Laughs: four-stars.png

I immediately liked this venue – the theatre room at the Caves – as it reminded me of pictures of the Tavern in Liverpool where the Beatles played all those years ago, with exposed bricks and a red stage; our seats were like cheap church pews. As I took my seat I wondered what direction this young comedian, Sam Russell, would take in this, his debut stand-up show at the Edinburgh Fringe. My question was soon answered as he launched into his act and started to tell us his ideas about both personal and general issues, displaying a witty and engaging story-telling technique with a lot of audience interaction. He told us he took a gig in France once where he said he found that his humour had the power to transcend language difficulties.

Russell’s style was a little brash – an essential for comedy – but there are deeper sections too, as he made more serious quips about losing loved ones, of which he said that after the initial funk of loss he would immerse himself in his live stand up. He became more and more entertaining and expressive as the evening went on – we could see him limbering up before our very eyes. His stories were filled with personal and interactional comments on his various theses about how he saw and felt, peppered with jokes. He’s the kind of comedian to tell stories about things that matter to him, perhaps also using the experience of friends.

The show is now about how when we are lucky we need to admit it and embrace it. Don’t always be looking for the next thing you want; wallow in the majesty of the wonderful everyday.
Read The Full Interview

The title of the show, Lucky Bastard, perhaps has two sides to it. On the one hand, it transpires that he has a beautiful Danish wife and a fortunate lifestyle, on the other there is the irony of not being lucky at his friend’s death or at the early training his mother gave him; since he was a child she had told him that there was no God, no Santa and so on. I think that he perhaps found that to be more of a benefit later on in his still young life experience. And his wife and middle class background can very well end up being the butt of his jokes – “my wife didn’t take well to that” or “Glastonbury is a refugee camp”.

A relaxed persona in simple, rebellious jeans and t-shirt and with a pint on the table next to him, Sam Russell had the audience in the palm of his hand and often howling with laughter. A couple of below-the-belt jokes were interspersed with the sincere side of the performance and we could tell that he was willing to be more risky and brash, including a few more risky jokes jabbing his finger at some racial and immigration comments. It was the sort of show that would go down well in any free thinking city. His themes were selected mostly from personal experience, and cunningly written by him as a tool for sculpting his material and his comedic performance.

I have to confess that I didn’t feel entirely safe during this show – I found myself hiding from the spotlight, for a red face wouldn’t save you from being roughly ridiculed and staring at the performer may mean your dignity and your life. What made me happy was that he was just as likely to turn the tables, and the comedy, on himself. My gut laughed a few times, from some of his timeless humour. One of the best was the marathon scene where he reduced himself to an absurd level. He was absolutely flying at that point.

Come and watch this crazy hilarious guy own the stage and offer up his whole personality, literal and metaphysical, for the sole purpose of entertaining you and sending you home with your head full of laughter.

Daniel Donnelly


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