“The more you clap, the more I forget my childhood!” guffaws Murray Hill in the sweet-yet-sharp, joking-but-meant-it style that has made him a legend of the downtown New York performance scene.
Murray Hill: About To Break, Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14) ****
All slick parting, tight polyester, thin ’tache and chunky rings, Hill is billed as “the hardest working middle-aged man in showbusiness” and his chops are beyond question: it might seem as if he’s worked his way down from the Catskills, but his expert line in barbed bonhomie has been refined over two decades hosting burlesque shows, bingo and Oscar-themed specials in Manhattan and Brooklyn. This is Hill’s overdue Fringe debut and it’s a treat.
About To Break is less a scripted set than an hour of Hill riffing on his wayward career, love life, gender expression (“Is it a man or a woman? The answer is no”) and, most of all, the audience. Whatever the subject, Hill is keen to connect with those in the room on common ground, articulating the nature of Spanx underwear in relation to haggis manufacture or taking a deep dive into the vexed question of whether a Tunnock’s teacake is a biscuit.
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A gameshow segment involving audience members proves a goldmine for impromptu gags that perfectly navigate the tightrope of ragging without belittling.
Indeed, Hill manages just the right balance throughout of finding fun in local differences and the peculiarities of those in the room – and the physical room itself – while always playing friendly. Neat tricks like swerving the mic away from his mouth just before his most scathing asides are balanced by a wide streak of self-deprecation and clowning at his own expense, leaving no doubt that in Hill’s world, we’re all in on the joke. Showbiz!
• Until 27 August, 9:15pm