I saw Gordon Southern on the same night as Tim Minchin and Doug Stanhope and laughed more during his hour than with either of the Fringe heroes.
His is a simply very strong stand-up set, with a few minimal nods to gimmicks or the overarching theme, but he allows the material to speak for itself. And what it’s saying, loud and clear, is: ‘funny’.
Because he’s also appearing in a Fringe play about Keith Moon, Southern is sporting an impressive pair of mutton-chop sideburns, bringing to mind Steptoe star Harold H Corbett. The Essex accent’s also close, although Southern’s demeanour is infinitely more upbeat than his rag-and-bone doppelganger. Strangely, he also mentions the other Harry Corbett, in the ‘puppets living on after their creators’ deaths’ segment of the show.
Elsewhere, we’ll cover territory as diverse as March Of The Penguins, street crime, maintaining a long-distance relationship with an Australian girl, movie piracy or the excesses of Dubai.
It’s fast-paced whistlestop stuff, and only vaguely connected to the show’s premise of offering solutions to many of life’s problems. But it matters not – when you’re treating everything as just laugh, as Southern so expertly does, you don’t really need a theme, or the crossword puzzle he has brought along as a prop.
This lively comic (the voice of the Admiral insurance parrot, trivia fans) is a slave to the gag, not allowing any opportunity for a laugh slip by. The hour is jam-packed with them, with callbacks and running jokes galore. It’s hard to see quite how he manages to fit so many punchlines into one show, but he does. Even when he’s building up to the joke, his face is wide-eyed in joyful anticipation of at what he’s about to say and we can only feel the same way.
His delivery is playful, upbeat and relentless, employing every trick in the book to drive the routine forward. It’s a masterclass in sustaining energy, laughter and just plain old-fashioned good humour to get the audience rolling with every line.
Southern might not be one of the bigger names at the festival, but he is one of the funniest.