Venue: Underbelly Med Quad
Jody Kamali is at once an extremely talented comic, and completely, unfathomably ridiculous. His Edinburgh Fringe show isn’t witty, pertinent or astutely comedic – it’s mayhem. Pure, unadulterated madness. And it’s completely hilarious.
Kamali’s surrealism sits somewhere on the spectrum between The Mighty Boosh and Harry Hill, closer to the former than the latter, though he harnesses Hill’s proclivity for personification of the inanimate to huge effect. The stuffed animals that populate his Gorbachev Circus of Wonder, the fictitious arena in which Kamali’s show Spectacular! plays out, become through his handling his performers, in a bent of complete nonsense. Watching Kamali manipulate Sue the Panda is vaguely hypnotic, and, for his unwavering immersion in the fantasy, comedy gold.
The show only gets wilder and weirder, culminating in Kamali beating the audience with a fake severed limb. It sounds unbearable, and would ordinarily be this reviewer’s worst nightmare, but the sad bathos of an abandoned circus setting somehow gives the surrealism and chaos an oxymoronic gravitas; Kamali’s interlude as a vampire having trouble keeping his fake fangs in is hysterical because of the self aware silliness, but also because, in this hopeless Russian circus, he is just so very pitiable. The comedy comes from both within and without the ridiculous narrative, so a laugh is never very far away.
There’s also something reassuring about watching someone perform a juggling act with Sainsbury’s bags, completely stony-faced and with entire conviction. It makes you feel less alone in your head – it’s a strange catharsis of insanity, of illogic, and the result is paralytic laughter.
His comedy surely lies in part with shock effect – try not laughing at a man ballroom dancing with a ironing board dressed as a woman – so it’s hard to see Kamali picking up a committed following. That said, he clearly has the range of imagination and performance, and if Noel Fielding can sell out arenas, there’s no reason Kamali, with projection, can’t do the same. Shows like this – off-the-wall, deceptively high-functioning comedy and bonkers escapism – are what the Fringe is all about.