Theatre review: Comedian Dies 
in the Middle of 
Joke Pleasance Dome (Venue 23)

Comedian Dies In The Middle Of Joke'Written and devised by Ross Sutherland'Edinburgh Festival 2012'Fringe
Comedian Dies In The Middle Of Joke'Written and devised by Ross Sutherland'Edinburgh Festival 2012'Fringe
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This is a brave title for a brave show. Ross Sutherland’s innovative piece of interactive theatre trusts the audience to create something hilarious from a deliberately bad piece of stand-up – and against all the odds, it works.

RATING: * * * *

We are transported back to the “Crack Me Up Comedy Lounge” on 11 November, 1983, where clichéd comedian Joe “Pops” Pooley is about to die on stage, literally and metaphorically. As well as being a comedy club, this is a crime scene and the audience (us) are about to witness Joe’s murder.

Using props and cue cards (saying things like “heckle” or “do a crossword”), we take part in a reconstruction of events, interrupting Joe’s predictable musings on Rubik cubes, Bounty bars and Margaret Thatcher with random shouts and activities. As the scene is repeated, we move round the tables, becoming different characters – a woman with a 1980s perm, a man in a beret, a comedy critic – and our contributions become increasingly well thought out and, most importantly, funny.

In every “set”, one person per table gets to go on stage and become comedian Joe, reading his banal ramblings from an autocue, until the whole show is being performed solely by us. Our host warns the would-be Joes not to try and be funny; the most they can hope for is to die with dignity. But they needn’t worry – the point of the piece isn’t anything “Joe” has to say. He’s only here to facilitate the impossible-to-write comic brilliance of normal everyday people fuelled by competitiveness and adrenaline.

A true celebration of the audience and what they’re capable of, this is a refreshing antidote to Ontroerend Goed’s Audience at last year’s festival which promised to do the above and then delivered the opposite. Does this entertaining hour prove that anyone can become a comedian? Probably not. But it does show that under the right conditions we all have interesting and funny things to say, a trail of which are left around the room – in the “critic’s” notepad, the crossword book – for the next lucky arrivals to enjoy.

Until 27 August. Today 2:30pm.