An Interview with Rob Gee

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The Vancouver Fringe is rising rapidly on the horizon, & impeccable wordsmith Rob Gee is, well, geeing himself up for his gigs, big time…


Hello Rob, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
Rob: Raised in Derby, Living in Leicester, currently in Calgary.

Why comedy, what is it about being funny in front of other people that makes you tick?
Rob: I’ve always liked entertaining folk since I was king Herod in the school nativity. And the sound of a bunch of people laughing is lovely. Also, I sometimes talk about some pretty rough subjects in my shows, so it comes down to that thing George Bernard Shaw said about how if you’re going to tell people the truth, you’d better make them laugh or they’ll kill you.

You’re also a dab hand with a quill. Can you tell us about your poetry?
Rob: Anyway, basically I do stand up poetry, which is a bit like stand up comedy, but it rhymes and there’s no jokes in it. I used to do loads of poetry slams too. One of the reasons I’m looking forward to returning to Vancouver is its fantastic slam scene.

You’ve shared stages with numerous personalities & luminaries; who have been your top 3 & why?
Rob: Sue Townsend, who wrote the Adrian Mole diaries. She was a really interesting speaker and her books are hilarious. Tony Benn, old school Labour MP. He was a delight. Dick Fish, who sings for punk band the Subhumans. I grew up on punk rock, particularly the anarcho stuff, so Dick was a childhood hero. I gigged with his band, Citizen Fish, once or twice in the 90s, and then he started doing spoken word, so I gigged with him a bit more. He’s lovely and he always spoke to me like we were mates. I was all awestruck and dithery, but it didn’t seem to phase him.

You’ve got three famous figures from history coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starter, mains & dessert?
Rob: It would have to be the three wise men, surely? They’d be pretty interesting conversation with a few beers in them. Actually, maybe two wise men and a translator. I’m not a very cook, but I live in Leicester and there’s a lovely South Indian place near me. We’d go there.

You’re bringing a show to this year’s Vancouver Fringe, can you tell us about it?
Rob: It’s a murder mystery set on an Alzheimer’s ward. I was a psych nurse for a number of years and I also love murder mysteries. There was also a lot I wanted to say about dementia. So it’s funny, with the occasional moving bit.

What’s the difference between a Canadian audience & a British?
Rob: I can only speak in terms of Fringe festivals, because they’re the only Canadian audiences I tend to do. Generally speaking, Canadian audiences tend to be a lot bigger, because their Fringes are better – the whole model is different. This leads to more questions than answers, I know. You’ll just have to take my word for it. Also, Canadian Fringe audiences are orientated more towards theatre, whereas UK Fringe audiences (particularly in Edinburgh) tend to be more focused towards comedy. In terms of what they laugh at though, it’s actually very similar.

What is the creative process behind writing your comedic material?
Rob: It starts with the idea that makes you giggle, or at least ignites something happy in the old grey matter. Once that happens, I then I like to write many pages of drivel which, several drafts later, I then use to I bore the people around me. Then it’ll do a scratch performance in a pub near where I live, and then it’ll do a tiny Fringe festival somewhere I lick the beast into shape. And then it’s ready!

What are the key ingredients to your style?
Rob: I like lots of light and lots of dark. And it goes in and out of rhyme. And it’s both kinds of funny.

You have twenty seconds to sell the show to someone you are flyering in the streets of Vancouver – what would you say?
Rob: It’s like Clue meets Memento. (That allows a few seconds in case they’ve not heard of Memento, then I can refer them to Google…)


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Forget Me Not

The Alzheimer’s Whodunnit

Revue Stage

Sept 6, 9, 11, 12, 15, 15 (times vary)

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www.robgee.co.uk

Sam Nicoresti: The Bedtime Funtime Go To Bed Right Now Show

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Bob’s Blundabus
August 24th (one-off show)

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


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Bob’s Blundabus is a rickety wee venue, but before every show there’s always a hub-hub bubbling up in bohemian defiance of the conventional Fringe. Chatting to a comedienne in the queue called Rosie, I asked why she was coming to this one-off, late night show by fiery young upstart, Sam Nicoresti. Her reply was that she had seen a version of it down Leicester & thought Sam had smashed it. Maybe it was gonna be worth staying up note-taking until 01.30 AM, after all…

Sam’s 80 minute show sees us all essentially invited to his sleepover; a royally ridiculous, dangerously deranged, cleverly victuallated masterwork-in-progress. Our curly-hair’d boy wonder commences proceedings by bursting from the womb of a tri-breasted Holy Madonna puppet, Monty Python style, with the audience-strings forming fallopian tubes for the ‘Ceremony of the Egg.’

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From this showbizzy opening it all gets wilder & weirder & more & more bizarre. Along the way I loved the naturality of a football-terrace audience delightedly bursting out into spontaneous drunk-o-clock chants. ‘Dad-dy! Dad-dy! Dad-dy!‘ we all cry as Sam’s disfigured Bahometean father turns up to the sounds of the Stygian swamp, wondering what the bloody hell all these people were doing in his house! Into the mix, & up to the sleepover, came an assortment of Sam’s pals; a sumptuous banquet of floorspots for folk like Dr Jellywoz, Jimmy Slim (AKA Mr Vesuvius), & Sam’s old school bully, Andy, who ends up in a duel with our host funnier than the one at the end of Blackadder III.

Then we reached the hour-mark. It was 01.10 AM, my mind had just started to wander to the thirty mile drive home & doing the maths on the alcohol-consumed thro a day’s reviewing, time spent for it to pass out of my system & whether I was safe to drive. It was only natural, 50-60 minute shows are the proven, boredom defying norm & we’d just broken thro’ the threshold. But Sam is no kowtowwer to convention, & he was ready to give us twenty minutes more. ‘Am I gonna enjoy this,’ I asked myself, ‘well Mr Nicoresti, over to you…’

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I needn’t have worried, for at that very moment he pipes up, ‘we have come to a very important part of the show – lets play pass the orange.’ And so we did, starting another time-blurring rush of fun, sketches, chanting & – most importantly of all – lots & lots of laughs. Seeing Sam’s sleepover loftily upstairs at the Blundabus felt morphingly like being on a shortish flight, with the characters coming on stage as if they were air hostesses bringing different stuff like food, drinks, magazines, gifts… you get the idea. All praise to the pilot, then, who is pulling off something so undeniably phantastic, & so thoroughly enjoyable, that a new Knowing Me, Knowing You could be on our hands.

Damo

five-stars

Rob Oldham: The Worm’s Lament

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Pleasance That
Aug 25-27 (21:30)

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


The shipping-container-cum-21st-century-comedy-space, Pleasance That, was brimful with Friday night revellers, all waiting for our comedian to land inside & let laughter splash into the air. With the audience spread out in a feminine delta, our alpha male strutted inside the womb-room beaming confidence. Who was this fine fellow? Well, he was just about to embark upon an hour answering that very question. For a start, the nimble-witted joke-wizard that is Rob Holland is only 23, but he’s already sounding professionally articulate. Born in the Nineties, nurtured in the Naughties, & blossoming in his debut Now, Rob is a philosopher-poet who postulates like the banner-bearer of a new wave of comedy about to erupt from the Millennial fountain.

The highest summits of Rob’s range were his spirited dalliances with tonal prose poetry, chaunted over tracks like David Gray’s Babylon. He is a natural poet, & they are soooo good, that when he reverts to his, albeit pretty decent, comedy patter; a part of you is anticipating the next ‘performance’ as if we were queuing up at Disneyworld or summat. Still, that’s not really a criticism, its just an observation that to experience Rob doing his performance poetry is like seeing a rainbow-coloured balloon rapidly inflated, so totally brilliant are his room-warming pieces.

Overall, Rob is an erudite phraseologist with a sabre-rattling dash. He does have a couple of flaws, however, like dissing my fuckin’ home town of Burnley for one. Perhaps it was unintentional, but when doing comedy in Scotland, it is better etiquette to dis either Edinburgh or Glasgow depending on your location at the time. An Englishman reinforcing the Daily Mail Tory mindset this far north by mocking underprivilege through the medium of attempted humour is best left out of the set.

But Rob is definitely getting there, there’s a lot of good stuff swirling about, & as he opens up his life the guy we’re getting to know seems a sassy addition to the circuit. I did observe a marked hypersensitivity to room temperature & the mood-sways of the audience, which does need to be eradicated for him to progress. The show is all & he is our glorious juggernaut. For me, the 23-year old Rob feels like a talented lieutenant in the Light Horse Artillery – he knows he should be in the Heavy Cavalry proper, but he hasn’t quite earned his spurs. Time & a couple more arduous Fringe campaigns will earn him a change of regiments, I am sure.

Damo

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UCL Graters: Panopticon

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Underbelly Bristo Sq
Aug 25-27 (14:30)

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


UCL Graters are a sketch group that have emerged from the lecture rooms of University College London & thrust themselves into the brutally ruthless Napoleonic battlefield that is the Edinburgh Comedy Fringe. Their very seaworthy vessel is manned by 3 lads – Joe, Luke & Sam – & two lassies – Izzy & Felicity -, whose varicoloured sweaters give them the appearance of children’s television show presenters. With hair & figures unflummoxed by age, they together showcase with extreme ebullience an hour of rather eccentric ideas – but was it comedy? Elongated sketches concluding with a dodgy pun/punchline are interesting to watch – like surreal theatre – but ultimately just timorous humour at best.

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37517986_926858777504997_8132390716639805440_o.jpgThere are clearly five highly intelligent minds at work here, & at the piemaking factory of their brainstormings it can easily be observed how the details have been pored over & poured in. Indeed, the endearing qualities of Panopticon are the variety, the rapidity & the originality of the scenes – I still can’t quite call them sketches as they lacked, like I said, the killer comedy blow. There were some entertaining moments, granted, the Brooklyn Community Theatre’s production of Aladdin leaps to mind, but again it was more of an interesting spectacle than laugh-out loudness. But, the artform is constantly evolving, & I am 42 years old, & these guys are barely in their 20s – therein lies the rub. Are they actually hilarious & I just don’t get it? The truth lies, of course, somewhere in between, but the UCL Graters’ sauce definitely needs thickening with some funnier flour.

Damo

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The Crooners

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Pleasance Courtyard
August 24-26 (23.00)

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


The BBC’s BattleActs! boys, Brendan Murphy and Kiell Smith-Bynoe, are bringing something rather special to this year’s Fringe. Playing Frankie Paradise and Louie Valentine, they are your classic singer-banter double-act, expert light entertainers in a field where light entertainment is what we punters are really all after. Their playhouse is a nice & comfy little quadrant that is the Pleasance’s Bunker One. Their pianist is shit hot, & their routine as swinging comedy kings is a see-thro,’ flower-stuff’d vase of invigorating & variegated variety. In laymans’ terms we have Murphy’s hyperactive Jim Carey bouncing off & into Smith-Bynoe‘s Sammy Davis Junior. The latter, especially, did what it said on the tin, a smooth-tongued posture prince with an instinctive manifestation of the ghosts of crooners past. As for Murphy, he seemed as if a brick had been wedged into his performance pedal, so relentless – but never annoying – was his train.

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Experiencing The Crooners is like being up on the deck of a gust-sailed caravel, wave-skimming to Cathay, sipping comedy cocktails thro’ a sustained rush of controlled pursuance. The boys sing us a selection of classic croons, shortened & adapted for their comedy needs of course, & on well-timed occasions get the audience willingly involved. Their show has a proper trig-point too, for the beat account of when Smith-Bynoe ‘Kicked the Devil in the Face’ is of optimum entertainment. To summarize, The Crooners is a very well-crafted party, quite niche, but quite beautiful, as if it were one of the École de Barbizon in a quiet corner of the Louvre.

Damo

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Ian Smith: Craft

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Underbelly Bristo Square
August 1-26 (17.15)

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


Ian Smith is man on the rise. Last year, at the fourth time of asking,  he won the ‘People’s Champion’ Amused Moose Comedy Award, & its dead easy to see why. He’s a good ol’ laid back northern lad, y’see, which makes him naturally salt-of-the-earthy, & he’s a proper funny un’, n’all! Goole’s own comedy gyrfalcon welcomes us all into his nest of familial friendliness. He’s the kinda guy you want to get blasted with & play Risk; he’s like an ubernerd, but the one who gets all the fit chicks & the best drugs. Three weeks into the Fringe, & five minutes into watching this refreshingly funny comedian, I felt like I was back at the beginning of August, highly excited that all these talented people had come to my city to perform, & up for a reyt laugh.

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Spending an hour with Smith allows us to penetrate our world via the distorted mirror of his imagination as he powerpoints & gabbles his way thro’ Craft. Like an industrious waterfall he rarely pauses for air, while his material is of the obscurer, kitschy type – the War of the Worlds brass band segment for example – & the stuff he gets up to near to, & at the, end is off the scale.

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About half-way through Craft we reach the raison d’etre of his 2018 show – the ancient Japanese art of origami, which Smith very shrewdly tell us, via wikipedia, ‘followed on from the invention of paper.’ This is a really welcome & integral part of the adventure – it never feels contrived – as are the hilarious subliminal messages which Smith slips in from time to time.

Sticking with the Japanese theme, Smith even found comedy in haiku, which reminded me of one of Basho’s classics, ‘Furu ike yakawa / zu tobikomumizu no oto,’ which translates something like, ‘Old pond — frog jumps in — sound of water.‘ Thus, in this instance, Ian Smith is the frog who has – like a comedy cannonball blasted out from the origami boom – leapt into the antique pond that is the world of Fringe comedy, where he is definitely making a noisy splash.

Damo

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Anna Nicholson: Woman of the Year

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Just the Tonic at the Caves
August 23-26 (15:00)

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


There is definitely room in the comedy world for lightheartedness. What with all the Brexit and Trump and whatnot. Not every comedian can be Stewart Lee and nor should they be. Then, it is into that cozy, inoffensive niche of cheeky asides and respectful bawdiness that Ms Nicholson comfortably fits. Her show is built around four central characters all bidding for the title of ‘Woman of the Year.’ They are certainly no grotesque caricatures, but rather familiar & well-observed female tropes from British society; one could say this show is a celebration of female stereotypes across the nation. Feminism for the WI brigade if you will. Each character is distinct, properly developed and performed with confidence and verve. The question of who deserves the eponymous title, or rather who doesn’t deserve it is a difficult one to resolve.

The hour flew by, and despite the room being far too hot the frequent laughter from the audience cooled my senses & kept me enthused. Along the ride I took wonder with Anna’s chameleon; a simple change of top or hairstyle made each of the four characters unrecognizable from the next. Praise must also be given to the superb keyboardist who kept the show bouncing along at a merry pace and the sound design which was as imaginative as it was amusing. The room was packed almost to the hilt and, at this late stage in the fringe and on a Wednesday night, that is quite an achievement. I see a bright future for Ms Nicholson. Having said all this I do tend to prefer my comedy a little more on the edgy side, but in a world of sharp edges and treacherous thorns, a fluff-ball comes as a welcome breath of fresh air.

Victor Pope

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