He’s a sly one, that Kelly Kingham. His promo piece and his appearance – cheap suit, no tie, shirt buttoned to the neck – suggest middle-aged geezer giving the comedy game a go. I picked him for that very reason as I’d had my fill on the Fringe of blokes reaching that ‘difficult’ age of 30 or thereabouts. Try reaching 50 and see how you like it – Kelly’s promo seemed to say. Ten minutes in and we seem to be on the predicted ground. The generally slightly-older audience are lapping up the slightly old-school, slightly un-PC banter. Jokes about the wife’s ‘plumbing’ and fending off a pitbull with the family dog – along with a liberal sprinkling of the F-word – is the kind of fare that a family-friendly comic from 70s telly may have served up, post-watershed. But when Kelly seems to momentarily lose his thread and do a Tourettes-like bark, whenever he mentions his dog, just a bit too often, you realise something is up. Then as the one-liners about nicking stuff from the office (‘it was only a photo-copier, well… maybe more than one’) start to become uneasy bedfellows with asides on death, fractured relationships and wasted lives, you reassess the tieless-suit ensemble and realise he’s wearing the uniform of a broken man.
A few comedians on the Fringe this year have been doing the old ‘Is he? Isn’t he?’ (a comedian, that is), morphing into a ‘tears of a clown’ denouement. And even if they don’t go all the way down that route, the whole idea of getting serious has been cynically summed up in some of the other shows I’ve seen (’45 minutes in, inject some pathos and end on an uplifting note’). The great skill with Kelly Kingham is the pathos is woven into the material but if it wasn’t there his act would still be laugh-out-loud funny, so it works on two levels. Another bold move is that the funny stuff is a perfect fit for his working-man’s-club-graduate persona, he never appears arch or ironic so when we’re laughing uproariously at things we might not have considered laughing at before it’s very real and strangely liberating. Don’t worry though – there’s nothing majorly offensive in Kelly’s material and after seeing him you won’t suddenly be brainwashed into reassessing Roy Chubby Brown’s back catalogue!
It’s strange, but for a show I thought was going to be a bit of light entertainment – it’s the one I’ve been thinking about the longest. I’m not sure if all Kelly’s shows are like this but either way, if it’s straight-up funny or multi-layered you’re after, you should definitely check him out if you get the chance.