Hilary Wardle

Edinburgh Fringe review: Phill Jupitus, Shirking Progress

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If you’re used to seeing genial, avuncular Phill Jupitus on QI or Never Mind The Buzzcocks, then Shirking Progress might surprise you.

We’re warned early in the show that it was ‘salty’ and also ‘saucy’ (calling to mind the famous Edinburgh chip shop delicacy) but nothing can really prepare an audience for the on stage Jupitus and his no holds barred approach.

His ribald set covers everything from early sexual experiences to a riotous account of his utter, complete confusion when it came to the mysteries of reproduction. You’ll honestly never look at testicles in the same way again.

Although it’s billed as a work in progress show, Shirking Progress feels tight and polished: possibly due to the fact that he’s at the end of the run and has run through this material about 24 times, but also because it’s clever and deeply autobiographical. He draws on his current experiences as a dad to two young women in their twenties as well as looking back over his childhood years to describe some fairly tough times- as well as some deeply enjoyable ones. After all, how many eight year old boys did you know who were allowed their very own copy of Penthouse magazine?

Liberal parenting methods aside, Jupitus does make some great points about both childhood and parenthood, pausing occasionally to deliver more topical gags too. A quip that he’s based his current look on Rolf Harris is startling, mainly because the moment he says that it literally cannot be unseen. For the rest of time, Phil Jupitus will equal Rolf Harris…or at the very least, until he gets rid of those NHS specs.

As you’d expect from a seasoned panel show regular, Jupitus is confident, tight and very very funny. Shirking Progress is only his second full show since he returned to his stand up roots to take part in a ‘comedian swap’ reality TV show in 2010 (an experience that he skilfully mines for laughs early on in his set) but you wouldn’t think it thanks to the way he works the packed room.

He immediately identifies that this 1.45pm Edinburgh crowd would be a lot more comfortable with the cheery, polite ‘QI’ Phill Jupitus who’s a fount of information and enjoys casually flirting with Stephen Fry, and mentions that whenever we seem a bit unsure of his racier material. He effectively forces us to laugh- if we don’t, we’re cardigan wearing Archers fans- and it works, even when things get a bit muddy during a section in which he describes talking about his daughter’s sex life on stage.

Incidentally, if you’re a comedian who’s ever tempted to discuss your college aged daughter’s sex life on stage: don’t. It didn’t backfire at the time but his decision to continue that trend by talking about his younger daughter’s sexuality in this show might not go down as well. He fumbles the ball when it comes to discussing lesbianism, doesn’t do himself any favours by making it so sexual and almost sounds a bit misogynistic at times- or at the very least a bit ill informed.

Thankfully, this is only one misfire in what is otherwise a pretty much perfect- and hilarious- hour of comedy. Miss him at your peril.

Date of live review: Sunday 24 August 2014 @ The Stand Comedy Club 5

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