I’m not usually a fan of crowd work at comedy gigs, because it’s a mixed bag. There can be too many loose ends and jokes that fall flat, wasting the precious time you have to make the audience like you and your material. However, Neil Delamere has mastered the art of crowd work to the point that it’s flawlessly woven into his fringe show. It’s not often that you’ll get someone that comes out to do the fringe that has so much fun joking with the audience, their actual fringe material becomes barely distinguishable amongst the improvisation.
The show is framed around a story about helping his father deliver meals on wheels to pensioners in Ireland, who at this point is an 82 year old man himself. Whilst telling us about the weirdos and ultra-religious people he delivers food to, he is able to jump around and go off on tangents without going on too long, without straying far from the structure of the show. He enjoys riffing on the audience’s reactions and their flustered answers to his questions, and because you can see his delight it makes the experience a lot more comfortable. He slides into this free-spirited approach on riffing by telling everyone not to be worried if he talks to them, “we’re only having the craic”. I can get behind this method, having spent too many nights cringing in the back of a comedy club when the comic chats up the audience.
Neil is your stereotypical fast talking Irishman, but it’s probably cause of his quick wit trying pushing out the jokes as fast he can. The jokes come so rapidly at some points I didn’t think I would be able to catch up with him. As the show goes on, Neil divulges more about his life in Ireland and about his childhood where the threat of the IRA could be quashed by getting your dad to join Al Qaeda. His main story about his delivery journey doesn’t seem to be anything more than a comedy vehicle, until in the end he ties it all together in a rewarding finale. It’s a performance that heavily relies on but also benefits from the use of improv, using it as a buffer to make his own jokes sound unbelievable. It’s also a show about getting older and dealing with how you cope with the inevitable – your parents getting too old to deliver meals to other old people.
Neil Delamere: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Pensioner is a great show because it doesn’t feel rigid at all. It’s a show that has the promise of something fresh and original each night along with his prepared fringe material. The guy is genuinely affable, but funny too – he’s not pandering to anyone, you can see that the act is what it is, a hysterical hour with a hilarious comedian.
Neil Delamere is on at Gilded Balloon at the Museum (Venue 64), 21:00
Aug 11-14, 16-27