Edinburgh Festival Fringe comedy review: Jonny Pelham: Before and After, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Jay Richardson.
Sometimes a Fringe debut requires little more than a straightforward introduction.
Jonny Pelham opens his by explaining why he’s “quite a weird man”. Born with a healthy comic quota of bodily abnormalities, he has popliteal pterygium syndrome, which affects around 200 people in the UK.
Although it barely troubles him now, the young Bradford comic had a tricky adolescence, even if he concedes his uniqueness had as much to do with being the only white kid in his gang and a terrible habit of juggling while trying to impress girls.
In fact, he was bizarrely well-adjusted for someone with his condition. Or at least the National Health Service thought so, when at 16 they offered him an operation to realign his jaw, purely for cosmetic reasons.
This sparked an identity crisis and recurrent soul-searching that obviously had a strong, self-analytical legacy for his stand-up. Perhaps inspired by his insensitive family, irrespective of both his parents being therapists, Pelham won’t be cast as a pity case.
He gave his patronising summer camp counsellors short shrift verbally and with his comedy career, has shown himself every bit as capable of offending a disabled person as the next unthinking comic.
Self-deprecation comes easily to Pelham.
However, his delivery is by turns thoughtful and bullish, imparting the vulnerabilities of his bleaker moods, teenage longings and sexual hang-ups, while acknowledging his prodigious drug consumption and refusal to suffer fools gladly.
And he’s even-handed about an NHS that has generally served him well but has unquestionably got its faults.
Pelham’s engagingly wry temperament and clear anecdotal gifts so far overshadow his physical quirks, that it seems a very sound bet that they’ll go virtually unmentioned in shows to come.
Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33) until 31 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 14 August 2015
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