WOKE up one morning. Had a stroke … If Markus Birdman were a Blues singer, he’d get a song out of having his body turn against him at the shockingly young age of 40. As he’s a comedian, he’s forged the experience into a show.
Markus Birdman - Love, Life and Death
The Stand Comedy Club II (Venue 5), Edinburgh
Star rating: * * * *
On being ushered into the venue, we’re confronted by a huge wall poster hinting at what’s to come. Actually, “welcomed” is a better word: it’s a relentlessly cheery, red, white and black drawing cueing us not to expect an hour of morbid thoughts. There’s Mexican Day of the Dead imagery, Death on a donkey, a skateboarding skeleton – so much fascinating stuff, it’s worth a ticket in itself.
And it’s all Birdman’s own work – his comic “training” included a fine arts degree.
The nattily shirted Birdman begins by showing us some of his many tattoos, including a jolly candy skull from Mexico. More death, more fun. It was a few days after having the image inked that an apparent hangover turned into something worse. Much worse.
He tells us of the battery of medical tests inflicted on him over the next few weeks – the horror of an MRI scan alleviated by an Aussie accent, a doctor going behind a screen and uttering one phrase you really don’t want to hear …
There are the reactions of his Geordie partner and their little girl; how the legacy of the stroke makes walking down the street dangerous (not necessarily for him); the tendency of fellow patients to find God; and male bonding over improvised, dangerous sports.
But it’s Birdman’s story to tell. And he tells it brilliantly – he’s confident, but not cocky. Meditative but not mournful. He interacts with the audience enough to make us feel that we are part of his story, but stays focused on keeping the reminiscences, revelations and lots of ruddy good gags coming.
By the close of this hugely enjoyable, sharply structured hour I was feeling glad to be here – with small and big “H” – vowing to grab life by the balls and determined to live long enough to see Birdman again next year.
• Until 26 August. Tomorrow 9:20pm.