Upbeat Gordon Southern may dress like the kind of supply teacher that the kids love to bully (his words) but, despite his repeated mantra of ‘Not Laughing, Learning’, his latest Edinburgh show is full-to-bursting with comedic gold, and undoubtedly perfect evidence (if we’re all being scientific) of why you should never underestimate the quality of what’s on offer from the city’s ‘Free’— to get in, if not to get out—Festivals.
That’s a Fun Fact is a not-quite-year-by-year selection of notable events from 1989 to the present day; from the Fall of the Berlin Wall (which, Southern points out, the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama optimistically—or foolishly—described as ‘the End of History’) to 2016’s ‘popular’ votes for Brexit and Donald Trump. A sort of follow-up to previous show, Long Story Short, Southern includes both personal and global ‘highlights’—two Gulf Wars, the Fall of the Twin Towers, the death of Diana Princess of Wales, and his own marriage and more recent divorce.
Each is the foundation for some tight comedic remarks, or a leap of logic connected with something said by a member of the audience, whom he cultivates with apparent ease. Of course, with less than an hour available to him, Southern has to be pretty selective; I wondered why 2010 skirts by without a mention of the launch of the iPad, given he’s using one to trigger his numerous musical cues. Or why he fails to draw more attention to August 1997 being his debut Edinburgh Festival Fringe. But then, he does seem a positive, forward-looking guy.
New Yorker Claude H Oliver II once wrote a poem titled Today Is Yesterday’s Future—one of my own facts for you! OK, our Trump on Twitter present almost certainly isn’t the future many of us expected or hoped to see, even just a couple of years ago. Yet I’d suggest it’s a fact that, despite everything, we can all still look forward to the future. Why? Because Southern will be there making us laugh.