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Rob Deb & the competition

The Fringe is still on (to be fair, it will be on till the 30th of August, so I could open an article with those words every day for three weeks or so... but I won't).

Today, Ben and I went to sample other oddities of the Free Fringe. There is a pub in Hanover Street called the Jekyll and Hyde. This is culturally significant because Robert Louis Stevenson was from Scotland, and so the Jekyll and Hyde makes more sense in Edinburgh than the identical Dr Jekyll does in Oslo. But I digress.

The first act we caught was an old favourite of mine: Rob Deb. I enjoyed his act immensely last year (although his views on Watchmen were rather untenable), and this year was unlikely to be any different.

I will say this, though. Rob Deb would appear to fluctuate quality-wise depending on his audience. The best option would seem to be to enlist various geeky friends, scatter them throughout the audience, and make sure they make the appropriate sounds at the right time. See, he tests his audience, and two geeks would appear to not be enough for a thoroughly geeky night. And so Ben and I were treated to something that was at best semi-geeky, and at worst not even half that. I fully intend to give him more opportunities later in the festival, though. Any geeky friends want to join? I am sure if we wait for Mary, we can get a proper Start Trek thing out of him.

As it was, he informed us that he lived in Croydon, but seemed completely unaware that a timely mention of Sarah Jane would be appropriate in that context. This marks the first time he has disappointed me (barring, of course, the great Watchmen debacle). I am not sure whether I should give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was pandering to the low geek factor of the audience on this particular night. It clearly affected his work. Now, his mind is in the right place, touching on Wall-E and Top Gear (while soundly condemning the latter), but it did feel rather too mainstream. It is sad when geek culture has to compromise. And it is never as good as when it doesn't.

He had a good take on Britain's Got Talent, though (having rehearsed the appropriate speech for confronting Simon Cowell), but the high point (as far as I am concerned) were the D&D remarks, where he established beyond any reasonable doubt that wizardry could never thrive in Scotland (as wizards are puny beings who cannot generally handle more than 4 damage; and rain can reach up to 8).

Following the main section, there was a Q & A. This is a daily event, but I am already looking forward to the end of the festival, when his Q & A lasts for an entire hour (oh, yes, we will be there).

Some of you will remember that last year I took issue with his attitude to the ending of Watchmen. It was rather sad. Someone asked him about it this year as well, and his reply was not altogether surprising. He liked the new ending. You will remember that I was not altogether happy with it. I was not entirely surprised, however, that he was quite pleased with the new ending. I will not go on to provide a rant on how this is a typical symptom of the lower eddies of geek culture, but you may infer as much.

Because Ben and I had had a long debate over the merits of Big Bang Theory over dinner (me vociferously defending it as truly brilliant and Ben rather coolly dismissing it as a typical sitcom with a sprinkling of research), I asked the great Geek his opinion on the subject on my way out. He seemed to find a middle position: not too enthusiastic, but hopeful because it seemed to improve in the second season. I learnt that Sheldon apparently is the female (but not objective?) favourite of the crew (which should really not surprise me, but it does -- do women like men with obsessive traits? Normally, I would say "No", but I must admit that that is where my sympathies lie in this particular instance).


I am sorry to say that the Free Fringe does not always keep the high standard of Rob Deb. He was followed by what I can only describe as a "sad act".

Jessica Delfino got her friend Ben Lerman (whose show Size Matters I'm afraid I may have to pass on) to warm up for her. He had a ukulele. It is sad when the introducing act is better than the main act. It is even sadder when the introducing act that is better than the main act really isn't that good.

Ms. Delfino treated us to a rape whistle song, had generally bad delivery and was "just ... not funny", as Ben put it.

He continued

She is stereotypically American: expects laughs, does not earn them.

Which brings me back to the bad delivery. I may just be me, but I am growing steadily more convinced that British people are just better at punch-lines. I don't know whether to attribute this to genetics or cultural context, but merely touching on a subject that might be funny if delivered properly does not do it for me. I missed Rob Deb terribly.

And then the genital humour started and I gave up.
Really. Saying "pussy" is not inherently funny. No matter how many times you repeat it.

I began plotting a plot that would limit the Fringe to residents of the British Isles (which, no matter what Ben says, includes Ireland). If non-British contributors are to be allowed, they must adapt their material to the Brits: what works in the US is clearly not necessarily funny here.

-- The conclusion: Rob Deb is quite excellent, but you should leave before anyone else enters the stage.


Tor,  11.08.09 09:05

Since I too like funny people, and like not funny people rather less, I will follow your lead and join you to a show with Rob Deb, and leave when he is done.

Also, I have to admit I think things like "sellout" when I hear about compromising on the geekyness, but it is probably an important skill to be able to adapt to ones audience. In any case, we shall just have to bring some friends.

Camilla,  11.08.09 11:33

I would imagine that the necessity of compromise increases when you are doing the Free Fringe, as you are relying on what voluntary donations people give you when they leave (and those will never be very great if half the room left because they had no idea what you were talking about). When we get rich, we can hire groups of people for just such eventualities.