There seem to be a plethora of anniversary shows this year. Everyone is celebrating an anniversary marking the number of times they have performed on the Fringe.
For Phil Nichol, this is the 20th year.
Star rating: *****
Venue: Assembly Checkpoint
The Canadian comic, who won the Perrier when it was called the Perrier, has promised to recreate some of his best material from the past two decades.
But being Phil Nichol he has not just leafed through a clutch of old routines.
Nichol, bursting with irresistible energy, has decided to impersonate all the Phils of the past – in a giant, celebratory Phil Fest.
There’s hardly time to bring back all the Phils – so the comic can’t wait to get started. “Welcome, welcome. Come in,” he bellows, scampering around the room like a springer spaniel on crack. “This is not the show.”
The show begins. And begins again. Each past Phil has his own sound cue, lighting and entrance. Present Phil morphs between segments, throwing on a jacket or a wig and re-arranging his features into the Phils of the past. We meet Scottish Phil, born in Cumbernauld but emigrated to Canada. Even back in 1996, he was already two people – the fearless aggressive Scot and the cheery Canadian. Nichol’s early routines played around with the stereotypes and subverted them.
There’s also Theatrical Phil, who studied acting, who can deliver great speeches from the history plays and knows how to take a bow.
Theatrical Phil is not associated with a particular year. He comes and goes, emoting, throwing shapes, dashing from one spotlight to another. Then there’s deadpan Stand Up Phil, delivering joke after resentful joke, snarling at the audience if they don’t like the material. “I LIKE IT. THAT’S A GOOD JOKE.”
Nichol also resurrects Bobby Slade – the moody beat poet, whose jokes took the form of long drawling New York style verse. No one liked him, says Nichol, but he doesn’t care. He’s bringing him back to life.
I nearly forgot Gay Phil. After comic Scott Capurro lambasted Nichol for homophobia, he devoted an entire show to proving he was gay friendly. Gay Phil comes and goes – flirting with a man on the front row and licking bald men’s heads to guess what they had for lunch.
Divorced Phil gives us comedy as therapy. Jokes delivered in a tirade of unreasonable fury against his ex wife, who is, he assures us, sitting in the audience tonight. Divorced Phil almost splits up with the audience but is drawn back to the stage by the sound of applause.
He ends with a triumphant sing-along version of The Only Gay Penguin – a song he wrote with the Juice Pigs before he was Phil. He throws in a string of musical impersonations – Morrissey, Bob Dylan, Liam Gallagher.
As we leave Humble Phil is on the stairs, hugging his audience goodnight.
Phenomenal. Just phenomenal.
Until 28 August. Today 9:45pm.