Comedy review: Things We Did Before Reality, Just The Tonic at The Caves (Venue 88), Edinburgh

Will Franken is a supremely talented character-comedy actor
Will Franken is a supremely talented character-comedy actor
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ONE of the best things that can happen at the Fringe is seeing a show by someone you know nothing about and discovering a whole new kind of fabulous comedy.

Things We Did Before Reality

Just The Tonic at 
The Caves (venue 88)

Star rating: * * * *

I got that experience watching Will Franken.

He gallops along a comedic road less travelled and has found the sweet spot where absurdism and satire combine, both super-sweet and surgically sharp. His characters morph and meld in the comedy kaleidoscope of his hour-long show, and each of them left me wanting more.

From the opening short play, The Random Audience Member, and through Bad American Comedian Impressions, the Humility Award ceremony and a touching plea from the makers of the Homophobia Quilt, Franken’s comedy is – as his mathematically challenged sports coach might say – 
487 per cent compelling, clever and creative.

He even does impressions, and plays that much-underrated of instruments, the air violin.

Inside the beautifully wrought velvet glove of his character comedy, however, is clenched an iron fist. Religion and sex, political correctness and the vicissitudes of American society are his targets, and not a single one is missed. The short presentation by “Bill Jacobs” on the profitability of diversity, incorporating an explanation of the difference between “real” activism and “business” activism is practically perfect comedy.

The writing and the performance are equally impressive, which is the case much less often than you would think. Franken is a hugely genial performer and manages to cope with a front row which seemed to be taken up by a herd of Phil Mitchell lookalikes in the terminal stages of lager saturation.

This is a supremely talented comedy actor, and each of his characters lives and breathes, however absurdly they do it. This is the kind of show that makes a Fringe great – a huge talent in a tiny room. I cannot remember one moment of this show that wasn’t funny. I am still laughing.

• Until 26 August. Today 10:35pm.