I didn’t know what to expect when I came to see Paul Sinha; I barely knew him as that guy from The Chase. At the ripe age of twenty-one, I was unaware of his long-standing career as a stand-up comedian, my only exposure to him being through my TV screen on fleeting occasions. Glancing around the audience, I noticed everyone other than me was of a certain demographic; would these jokes land with me, would it all be about The Chase, was he actually funny?
What ensued in the following hour can only be described as an exhilarating and utterly hilarious whirlwind of a show. Of course, Sinha immediately addressed the elephant in the room; Some of you are here because you know me, and some of you here might not know me because you’re in full-time employment. It was clear that Sinha’s time on TV was going to form part of the show, but there is more to him than simply being The Sinnerman, and I found that the stories he shared about his life were much more compelling – a credit to his character and his capabilities as a comedian.
The show was structured as though Sinha was pitching his own memoir to us, describing aspects of his life that have shaped him, proving himself worthy of a book deal. It was really interesting to see a comedy show done this way, rather than simply watching a comedian stand on a stage and tell us something ‘interesting’ that (definitely didn’t) happen to them the other day. He utilised props, which mainly consisted of the autobiography of Barry from Eastenders and a pair of sunglasses to represent Pet Shop Boys, but there was genuinely no need to have a more elaborate set; Sinha was so engaging, constantly arriving at the next joke, that it just wouldn’t have added anything.
We were taken through Sinha’s entire life, indulged with stories about how his parents met, his school years, the queer scene in London and his life since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Many of these personal anecdotes were told through the medium of music, as Sinha took to his keyboard and sang several hilarious bangers; including about losing his virginity and the fact he has still not been invited to appear on Channel 4’s The Last Leg despite ticking every box (having a disability, being gay, and coincidentally also happening to be very, very funny).
Sinha’s delivery was perfectly executed; not only was he great at getting to the punchline of the joke, something that years of practise at the fringe will undoubtedly help with, but then he kept on taking the joke further, pushing it as far as he could to the point where it became even funnier. This, combined with Sinha’s sharp and witty political commentary, meant that the audience were left utterly captivated; it wasn’t at all tedious, but instead it felt like we all shared some sort of inside joke with him.
Once Sinha Lifetime is exactly what you want from the Fringe; a show that is brutally honest, about life since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and the media’s subversive reaction to this, maintaining a unique mixture of fascinating life stories with jokes that were genuinely tear-inducing. I wouldn’t say I was surprised at Sinha’s skills in comedy, but I’m more so ashamed that I hadn’t heard of this aspect of him any sooner! There’s much to be said for new performers at the fringe, and whilst it’s incredibly important to provide a space for new talent, I think there’s also a lot to be said about people who have been performing here for years. Sinha is one of those comedians who makes up the fabric of the Fringe; I simply don’t think I would have had the same experience, or made the most out of this wonderful festival had I not come to this show.
Someone get this man a book deal!
Paul Sinha: Once Sinha Lifetime is at The Stand’s New Town Theatre (George Street), August 4 – 28 at 4:40pm.