Wrapping up the last few days of his fifth Edinburgh Fringe Festival solo-show run, Damian Clark is the epitome of funny. Extra Show, playing at the Gilded Balloon theatre every day, is a compilation of his recent struggles with first time fatherhood and preparation for his first baby. Clark waxes and wanes from silly to creative to cutting and back again all within the course of a minute, thanks to his high-energy delivery. Simply being in the audience of Damian’s show is an experience and leaves you in an all-round lifted mood, albeit with sore abs and cheek muscles from laughing. Sharp as a tack and downright hilarious, catch the last few days of Damian’s run at the Gilded Balloon, one of the funniest stand-up shows this festival season.
Despite his Aussie-origins, Damian Clark has become an honorary Irish comic after moving to Dublin and quickly securing himself as a staple on the local comedy circuit. Clark is a regular on Irish television, frequenting shows such as Republic of Telly, I Dare Ya!, The Apprentice: You’re fired!, and the list goes on; however, off-screen Damian is a familiar funny-person on the UK club comedy scene.
Kicking off his stand-up comedy career over twenty-two years ago, Damian claims he is following the notion that slow and steady win the race. “When I started [stand-up comedy] in 1996, the comedy world simply was a different world, and now people measure you on which ladder you are climbing, and apparently, I’m taking the long and slow one”, he said followed by a belly laugh and a sip of coffee. Damian grew up with a different era of comedy than what most people are familiar with in our isolated echelon of Fringe Festival variety stand-up. Comedy wasn’t nearly as accessible as it is now, and certainly wasn’t as deeply analysed.
“When I was growing up, Seinfeld was only really just starting on television, [Jerry Seinfeld] wasn’t really famous going into that, I mean before [the show] no one outside of the comedy circuit had ever really heard of him before. And then when he came around and was on television, it became apparent that ‘Oh! A Comedian was a real thing that people could do’. Before that it wasn’t a career, it was the person – Joan Rivers, Eddie Murphy, Richard Prior, they were just funny people. But after Seinfeld, everyone realized that they were funny sure, but they were also living out a career. So I thought, hey I could do that too.”
Damian reflects insightfully on the evolution of stand-up comedy, as a career from what it was when he was growing up in the age of Seinfeld to what it has become in the modern circumstance. In previous years, talent was the main driving force for success in comedy, but now there is a clear path of stepping stones of how to get from A to B; A being fresh-meat and B being fame. The stepping-stones to success consist of specific criteria – agents to have, clubs to play and people to meet. “I was doing a gig in Glasgow, and [all the comics I was performing with] had been in the gang for at least 25 years, and they all started stand-up because they couldn’t do anything else, they got bitten by the comedy-bug and they only knew how to be funny so they never tried anything else. And I love that. That would never happen now because people know it’s a profession and career and a past time, not just something that you’re good at, and people now measure and ask, how many gigs have you done and how many years have you been going as if that’s an indicator of how good you are.”
Apart from the evolution in comedy as a career, Damian notices a strong and compelling change in the attitudes of audiences and the general public in the last twenty-two years since his comedy debut; namely in the level of public sensitivity. Political contexts have seldom ever been more open-minded. However somehow through a mesh of technology, widespread social media and the freedom of progressive speech, the public can seem more insulted than ever before. This topic is covered a lot in the media and often the millennial generation is criticised for their seeming constant readiness to be offended. However, the crossover between PC culture and stand-up comedy is a messy and intimate tangle that can often be confusing. “Comedy is as good as it’s ever been, and more importantly it’s the least offensive that it’s ever been. But somehow people are getting more offended now than they ever have. Which astounds me! We are so much more in touch with everything through social media and education, but in the end, we still have to remember that it’s just comedy. It’s just a laugh. Otherwise what’s the point of it? The only thing that is worth being offended by is whether or not a joke is funny. If you’re not laughing, then you have every right to be offended.”
Damian retained a refreshingly optimistic take on the issue of over-compensative sensitivity and summed up his views by wondering what the effects are on his own comedic reception; “I’m hoping fart jokes will always be funny. Actually, I’m not hoping, I know they’ll always be funny.”
Damian Clark’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival solo-show this year ‘Extra Show’ is a class demonstration of why he has a reputation as one of the funniest comics on the UK circuit. Aside from the actual hilarious content of the show, his stage presence is commanding and instantly likeable. It’s frankly quite difficult to imagine Damian in any other profession, and he would agree. “If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be cleaning. It’s probably the only job I could get, I have no skills!” He said followed by a laugh, “If I wasn’t doing [stand-up] I’d want to be a rock star, so basically the same job just more poetic.”
Damian Clark is a name to see as soon as possible. With ambitions of one day performing at the Apollo Theatre in London, and at the Comedy Cellar in New York City, he won’t be quitting comedy any time soon; “I’ve always been into Comedy, and it’ll always be Comedy for me. So, I’m just going to keep doing this until I die!”
Damian Clark: Extra Show
Gilded Balloon Teviot – Billiard Room (Venue 14)
Until 26 August
Image: Damian Clark