I rate David O’Doherty high in my list of favourite comedians and “You Have to Laugh” is my favourite encounter with him and his crappy keyboard yet.
If you don’t know this Irish entertainer yet, then you’re missing out. He mixes music with jokes and storytelling. As with the best comedians, O’Doherty’s skill is the ability to weave a tale that carries you along through the ups and downs.
Sometimes it is the anticipation that makes you laugh and sometimes its the surprise. A bit like life.
You Have to Laugh isn’t a show you’ll go to and listen to tunes. It isn’t that type of musical comedy. It’s not as if O’Doherty improvises a mashup of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody with a contemporary hit while you laugh at the absurdity of it all. No. From time to time David O’Doherty will sit down on a humble little chair, in the middle of a brutalist (but in Fringe terms; thankfully large) stage, place a tiny keyboard on his lap and sing you a story. This is the type of musical comedy where the storytelling is enhanced with a melody.
And yet, somehow, I think it’s the musical touch that helps him stand out from the crowd. It lightens the tone. The dark undertones of the stresses of life feel more like whimsy while there’s a wee tune playing on an ageing keyboard.
Dark undertones? They’re always there with O’Doherty, but this year I felt he was doing better. Doing grand? Perhaps, but the idea of sorting out your shit, laughing at life and getting on with it is a good one. Disappointingly, though, his trip to Edinburgh has been marred with a theft. Someone knicked his wallet from backstage while he was performing the show at the Assembly Theatre in George Square. I’m ashamed of my city but pleased that the show goes on.
You Have to Laugh is a mix of the absurd with the harsh reality of life. Whether he’s telling you about mice or bees he is reminding you of a situation you can relate to or which make you think of someone you know. It may get surreal at times but it never gets too far from the real. The daily grind, just how unfair life can be at times, that’s the anchor which holds us in place. It’s the ability to do the best you can, to find the funny side or chat with friends that lifts you back up. You Have to Laugh.
Photograph of honey by Jez Timms.