Edinburgh Festival Fringe comedy review: Phil Jerrod: Neanderthal, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Jay Richardson
Fulsome of beard, cynical of outlook and lyrical of rant, this is an outstanding introductory hour from Phil Jerrod, blending insightful, despairing wit with delightfully vivid flights of the imagination.
Neanderthal man only had two concerns, suggests the intense, bulging-eyed Brightonian: fending off tigers and finding food. Yet he finds himself beset by all manner of encroaching middle-aged anguish, not the least of which is a suspicion that his show’s message is as elusive and futile as life itself.
Undermining stereotypes and clichés from the start, especially pertaining to his rural upbringing, Jerrod nevertheless knows what’s expected of him as a middle-class man, his failure to hit the established marks offset by his damningly funny dismissals of conventional aspiration. Decrying his existence with florid polemic and pretensions to universality, Jerrod bellyaches on behalf of all beaten-down wage slaves taunted by Facebook acquaintances with more fulfilling lives.
Without much contrivance, he locates his own struggles in historical context and draws comparisons with other species, offering droll observations on Jesus and the differing horizons of his father, grandfather and himself, as well as a mischievous gag about chimps aping the Sugababes and a tour-de-force detour into the myriad products derived from pigs.
Directing the latter powerfully controlled blast at a bewildered punter in the front row, a recurring tactic that’s one of the more blatant set-pieces in a knowingly performative show, the staginess is forgivable for the sheer frothing élan with which Jerrod steams into his diatribes, committing his full, outsize personality and physicality to his most painful memories. At the same time though, he stays loose enough to ad-lib round the audience’s response.
Neanderthal is impressively dense, with some wonderfully quotable lines woven through the rich, descriptive language, the passionate conveyance of Jerrod’s routines only magnifying their impact.
Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33), Until 30 August, 7pm / listings
Follow our Edinburgh Festival coverage
• Follow our social accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
• Get everything on our Festivals homepage – on desktop, mobile or tablet
• Join the conversation with the hashtags #WOWfest and #WOWwagon
• Watch all the latest videos