Review: Matthew Crosby (The Show) – Pleasance Beside, Edinburgh.
There’s a lot to like about Matthew Crosby’s solo show, in which he guides the audience through the ludicrous user-edited self help site WikiHow using Powerpoint.
Him, for a start.
The Pappy’s Fun Club veteran works the room like a pro: he’s charming, self deprecating, warm and determined to bring the audience along with him. So much so that you can’t help but engage, participate and, of course, laugh.
“Who’s from Kingston Upon Thames? Who makes their own jam? Did any of you used to be a teacher?”
This questioning technique is a comedy staple, guaranteed to get the audience on side. It’s effective, but seems quite safe and standard: as do his confessional jokes about his hypochondria and the time he stole a bag full of sexual lubricant.
At the centre of Crosby’s show, The Show, is his discovery of the ridiculous WikiHow page ‘How To Have A Better Life’. The advice page is all about self-improvement, so you’d expect it to start with something pseudo-philosophical. The kind of quote, in fact, that people usually share on Facebook, photoshopped over a picture of a sunset. Or possibly a kitten. Instead, the first suggestion on the ‘better life’ page is ‘make your own jam’.
After thousands of years of searching, it turns out that the meaning of life was melting fruit and putting it into little pots all along. The Robertson family must be the happiest people on Earth.
Silly as it is, the WikiHow page provides a good, solid, structured base for the show. Other suggestions for how to have a better life include ‘visit museums and galleries’, which Crosby turns into an entertaining riff about how to behave when contemplating art: “I don’t know how long to look at each thing…there should be a timer above the pictures.”
These shows about daft stuff on the internet have been done many times before. Adam Buxton’s excellent YouTube-comment based show Bug, for example, delves much deeper than Crosby’s – and gets weirder (and more entertaining) results. But Crosby’s material is sharp and polished, with at least one eye firmly fixed on the panel shows. And it’s hard to criticise that: 8 Out of 10 Cats definitely pays more than your average Fringe run.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make some jam.
Date of live review: Saturday 4th August 2012.