Edinburgh Fringe Review: Jordan Brookes, Pleasance Courtyard

"The ones who’ve been around the block, who work for bigger publications, have a greater frame of reference and a better understanding but that’s not always helpful as the amount they’ve seen can make them a bit numb to it – sometimes it needs to be edgy or different just to make them feel something."

Performer Ciaran Dowd speaking to Fringepig about comedy critics.

I wonder if Ciaran Dowd was thinking of me when he said this quote above. And maybe he was thinking of the acclaim that has been heaped on Jordan Brookes by the broadsheets and awards panels in the last couple of years. If Dowd was thinking of me I don't think it's strictly true. My tastes are pretty broad. I like Ciaran Dowd's new show. I was also struck by how good Michael McIntye was when I first saw him at the Edinburgh Fringe and they don't come much more mainstream than McIntyre.

Of course, I was younger then. Chris Rock does a routine about seeing so much porn eventually he could only get an erection if he saw a small person having sex with a Chinese women with a big bottom (or something). I definitely don't think I've reached that stage in my comedy viewing.

But then again...

Jordan Brookes is a distinctive flavour of comedian and I do find him compelling. In his latest show Bleed he pushes more boundaries, making his audience laugh while also making them feel uncomfortable. From the very start when other comedians will use every weapon in their armoury to win over an audience, Brookes is alienating them, with a nervous opening where it is hard to tell what is scripted and what is ad libbed.

This sets the tone for an uneasy hour (particularly uneasy if you are sitting in the second row with your notebook as I found out when the barefoot Jack Skellington lookalike glanced at me writing and said "live in the moment, hate it later") which constantly pulls the rug from under the audience. It is both brilliant and frustrating as he gets into the meat of the set by explaining how he broke up with his girlfriend over making a joke about the difference between feeling something in your heart and your head. Ironic as Brookes the performer is probably someone you feel in your head rather than in your heart, whereas with other comics it might be the other way round.

There are proper jokes here though alongside some technologial innovations that initially hinder the momentum but then pay dividends. But for every punchline there is alo a punch to the gut. It is somehow appropriate that one of Brookes' trademarks is his fondness for physically contorting himself into grotesque shapes. At times this show, like his disturbingly bendy body, seems to be folding in on itself. At one point he repeats the phrase "the riskiest comic in the business" until it becomes terrifyingly rather than praise.

If you are looking for a rictus-grinned latterday Lee Evans who constantly stares into the existential abyss Brookes is certainly your man. Bleed is a great show, but where does he go from here? I'm just worried that – as his PR image this year seems to hint – he could be painting himself into a corner.

Until August 26. Tickets here.

Read more Edinburgh Fringe reviews here.

****

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