Anybody who loves comedy and is a keen watcher of pretty much any comedy panel show ever – Mock the Week, Taskmaster, and the likes – will have heard of Ed Gamble, and he is certainly the most well-known act on my Fringe roster to date. Having watched him perform solely through my TV, I was intrigued to see what a live show would be like. Sat in the Gordon Aikman Lecture Theatre – a surreal experience to say the least, having spent my Monday mornings sat here enduring Philosophy lectures – the audience was certainly not disappointed.
From the moment we entered the theatre, we were greeted with the notion that the show was going to be edgy and hardcore; heavy metal blasting from the speakers, backdrop posters featuring a cartoon version of Ed with an eight-pack and wearing a biker jacket, lightning coming out of his hands. I became worried that the show perhaps wasn’t for me – my taste in music isn’t quite as intense – but it was too late now; I’d plonked myself in the front row and if I even attempted to leave, I’d become the butt of a very long and hilarious joke.
As it turns out, despite being a big fan of the genre, Ed didn’t really align himself with many heavy-metal stereotypes either. This became the focus of the show; the heavy-metal community’s refusal to accept Ed as one of their own, his failed interaction with so-called big boys in his gym, and the influence this has had on his comedy. One anecdote, without giving too much away, goes into the time he was peer-pressured by a crowd of heavy metal fans to draw blood live on stage – it’s safe to say I was crying from laughter, despite being equally repulsed.
For a comedian, it’s essential that you build some kind of relationship with your audience during the hour that you spend together; this rule is literally written into the scripts of stand-up performances, which often rely on the participation of audience members to reach a punchline. Ed’s rapport with the audience was incredibly natural and genuine, often breaking away from script and even at times laughing at his own jokes, taking a minute to compose himself. These outbursts of laughter punctuated the show to the point where simply everything became funny, and moments of silence were filled with people who just couldn’t contain their laughter.
For me, this is what I want to get from comedy right now, in a world where everything is frankly awful. Many comedians at the fringe have taken to focusing on the doom and gloom of Coronavirus and the lockdowns we all endured; the loneliness of it all, how we all turned to alcohol as a coping mechanism. This feels unavoidable for a topical show, but it is also equally as depressing if not done correctly. Rather than joking about losing the will to live, or descending into a political rant about the hundreds of thousands of lives lost at the hands of our callous so-called government (which I do typically enjoy listening to), Ed instead used the topic of the pandemic to talk about his relationship with his wife, his love for her and the ways in which they made light of a truly horrific situation (namely through karaoke machines and penis-shaped straws, I will admit). It’s important to reflect on the collective trauma we all experienced, but it was refreshing to see this done in a way that also recognises the ways in which the pandemic has brought people closer together.
Without giving too much away, Ed Gamble was everything I had expected to see and more. I left the theatre feeling much more connected to the world whilst simultaneously thinking, I have never laughed this much in the space of a single hour.
Ed Gamble: Electric is no longer showing at the Fringe. However, Ed is touring the show around the country September 3 – November 20. Limited tickets available.
Image used with permission of author, provided to The Student as press material.