The odds may not be stacked in Dan Nightingale’s favour as he prepares for his awkward tea-time slot in a stuffy room in the Pleasance Dome conservatory. The heat is challenging. The venue is confusing (the Pleasance Dome is at Potterrow rather than The Pleasance). And 5.30 is an awkward time of day, too late for family-friendly fun but too early for after-dark danger.
However, after a few days of disappointing performances, Nightingale took his fate into his own hands last night in that small Potterrow venue. He bought a big fucking fan. I like to see a comedian take control of his life (and an audience’s temperature requirements) with such gusto, and apparently so did everyone else in the crowd – we were all on side from the moment we arrived.
Nightingale is short, bald, and, by his own admission, going a bit tubby around the middle. These attributes allow him to wallow in self-deprecation to the point where it’s impossible not to like him. As he traverses through all the normal things in life that can, at times, be vaguely uncomfortable for a short, bald, tubby person – jogging, fashion and dating – he appears to dislike himself to the extent that, for you to dislike him, that would really make YOU the dick. Smart.
As well as these tried and true comedy topics, Nightingale also lets the audience in on some more serious aspects of his life – the slightly touching description of how he has dealt with his father’s Parkinson’s diagnosis (by laughing at it, obviously); a working-class chip on the shoulder that’s generally kept contained but occasionally indulged at opportune moments; and the feeling of being crushed under our own unrealistic expectations of life as 30+ adults. This is a world where a hangover means two dark days filled with harsh self-talk and creeping anxiety attacks brought on by sub-standard credit scores – and Nightingale nails it.
The interesting aspect of this show comes when you try to pin down the performer himself. For starters, it turns out he’s not really a dick at all (or perhaps he’s just successfully hiding it). And as much as his appearance and background give off a self-admitted “builder” vibe, Nightingale has a (heavy) reliance on his camp alter-ego. Mixed with the influence he’s taken from African-American Def Jam comedy, the finished project is a curious and entertaining mix, with just a few moments where you can’t quite shake that “needed to be there” feeling.
Although this show isn’t a constant stream of belly laughs, Nightingale’s comedy is relatable and certainly funny – post 30 problems, the shark-infested waters of online dating and a few pops at posh Londoners are always crowd-pleasers. Chuck in a medley of camp musical snippets and a weird sex story and nobody left unsatisfied. With a little refinement of his delivery – and maybe an air conditioned room – I hope to see Dan Nightingale return next year with something slightly slicker but equally endearing.
About the Guest Reviewer
Lauren Pomphrey is an Edinburgh writer who loves to travel to new places and pine over her home city. She works in digital marketing and sporadically blogs about life and other problems on The Dung Beetle blog.