Peter Buckley Hill: How Does He Smell? ****
PBH’s Free Fringe @ Canons’ Gait (Venue 78), both shows until 28 August
In a Fringe where there are still “Booming” numbers of Fringe favourites here whose earliest memories were of Olivia Newton-John urging them to Get Physical, we seem to be suffocating in a Gen Z-mandated safe space where all geese are created equal and the saying of boo is banned.
The ubiquity of the “me coming out/me getting diagnosed/me having a moment of self-realisation” memoir as stand up at this year’s Fringe (maybe all that time in lockdown just thinking about yourself was not so much of a good thing for comedy after all) brings to mind the lyrics of WS Gilbert: “When everyone is somebody / Then no one’s anybody.”
But some somebodies are still there, and should you crave a bit of old-fashioned Fringe comedy clever/crazy, there is nothing and no one quite like Peter Buckley Hill. Probably never will be. He created the Free Fringe which makes performance in Edinburgh possible for so many talents who otherwise would not be here. And in Ephemeroids, in the basement of the newly and impressively refurbished Canons’ Gait, he himself takes 50 minutes out of your life and makes it exponentially better by way of ridiculous songs and surprising chat.
There is very little to be gained by an analysis of style, content or raison d’etre, the laughter in this hour just is. Push me and I will admit that “No one Gives a F*** If You’re a Vegan” is a musical highlight, along with the melancholy nostalgia of the adapted Dean Martin classic “Everyone Has Been a C*** to Someone”. But songs about ee cummings and ZZ Top, religion, eponymous diseases and the Turin Shroud create the kind of response in the room which is born out of a big laugh, turns into a shake of the head as you realise how ridiculous the thing is that you are laughing at, which brings on another, bigger laugh at the combination. It is an alchemy few comics can master.
He is doing three shows this year, including Peter Buckley Hill and Some Comedians which is the embryo from which the whole Free Fringe developed. How Does He Smell? began last year, when Peter’s comedy dog had no nose, but now Peter has more fully explored the non-nosedom and all possible comedy flowing from it.
This show has hats and haikus, Bohemian Rhapsody in its entirety (I am still having flashbacks, it is quite the experience), dogging, history, camels and some unexpected Phil Spector. There is interactive Gregorian Chant and a dozen other wonderful delights. PBH offers higher ordinary intellectual silliness in his own unique blend and in his unique performance style. It is like watching Lang Lang having fun playing Chopsticks. And it is, I suggest, not to be missed.
Religious types might shy away from joining in with the exultant Jesus Took My Dog’s Nose in the Rapture and Strauss purists might balk at his use of the Blue Danube Waltz, but this 50 minutes is a wraparound, laugh-along joy.