With one of the best opening salvoes I’ve witnessed at this festival, Zach Zimmerman has his welcoming spiel down pat, introducing himself as a strapping, gay son of a preacher man from the American Deep South.
Zach Zimmerman: Clean Comedy, Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose, Edinburgh * * * *
Effortlessly assured at the mic, his cheeky yet charming, self-mocking but confident persona seem impregnable. And yet, from the recorded phone call that actually kicks off this show and his mother’s smiling photo ever-present beside him, there’s an immediate suggestion that all has not been right in the state of Virginia.
Indeed, a through-line throughout is his mother’s desire for him to reject his tales of rough and tumble gay dating in New York for “clean comedy”. Though this never seems likely, Zimmerman relates the hard-won journey he’s travelled to get where he is, indeed, to become a performer.
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Not only did his Christian upbringing begin to conflict with his awakening sexuality in highly dysfunctional ways, his outsider status cemented by him being one of the few white kids at his school, but his father forbade him from becoming a cheerleader. Instead, a compromise was reached whereby he became the school sports mascot, a gay teen bringing confrontational sass to a macho, ultra-heterosexual environment.
When he left his home for university, he fully reinvented himself but the disapproval of his family lingered, so Zimmerman decided to decamp to broad-minded New York. Even there, self-acceptance continued to elude him until news from back home turned his world upside down and he found the resolve to take pride in the “dirt” of his stand-up. And literally, graphically, love himself.
Clocking in at a pithily exquisite 45 minutes, Clean Comedy is a late-night treat of superior, coming-of-age storytelling swept along on Zimmerman’s beaming charisma and some tremendous gag-writing.
Until 26 August