Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Football on the Fringe: Bob Doolally Live and Half-Cut

Susan Boyle, Roseanna Cunningham and Deirdrie "off the Tennent's lager can."

All "close personal friends" of Bob Doolally, the football pundit's pundit making a fleeting Fringe appearance at the Stand Comedy Club.

The act remains much as it always was, that introductory roll call hint that a scattergun approach, devoid of subtlety, is the order of the day.

I had reservations before the show started. I feared this was a comedy grotesque who doesn't move us much beyond the disastrous recent Only An Excuse Hogmanay specials.

And certainly, if carefully constructed satire is your thing, then Bob Doolally ain't yer man.

On the other hand Scottish football is packed full of characters so ridiculous that it doesn't take a Wildean wit to call them out as numpties. This is particularly effective when he turns his attention to the senders of letterbombs.

And the audience, mostly but not completely male, seem to be full throttle in their appreciation. It's material Only An Excuse wouldn't dare use and it's all the better for it.

Ashley Cole, Derek Riordan, John Leslie, Gordon Brown, Alex Salmond, Sue Barker, Billy Bremner, Norman Hunter, David Beckham. All of them get the Doolally treatment. It's a list that seems to prove that some of this material is increasingly dated.

There's also time for an enjoyable stab at recreating the almost artistic way certain Scots can use what I think the Americans have started calling f-bombs and c-bombs to replace almost any other word in their vocabulary.

This remains an act that embraces the "off colour" joke as a badge of honour and, although the buffoonish Doolally persona helps it avoid a descent into naked nastiness, patrons should leave any notions of political correctness at the door.

Unfortunately I couldn't help but think that there was nothing new here.

There was a horrible BBC phrase kicking about earlier this year regarding the search for "blue collar comedy."

I suspect this is it.

But you can hear variations on many of these jokes in stadiums and pubs across the country.

I'd say they work better au naturel, without the forced conceit of the Doolally character.

Perhaps that can be countered by saying that this is a show that connects the Fringe with "ordinary" punters more effectively than any number of Oxbridge revues can. The raucous laughter that greets his every utterance might support that argument.

Yet I'm not sure there is a strong enough character here to step outside a fairly limited stand up routine. The question and answer session at the end didn't quite click although it should be a gift for character driven stand up.

There's comedians doing it better than this across the city right now.

Most of them, of course, aren't dealing with Scottish football. And that's the selling point that delivers Doolally's audience.

Alas the hour reflects Scottish football rather too successfully. Workman-like, full of honest endeavour, perhaps fleetingly impressive.

But ultimately unsatisfactory.