STAND UP COMEDY
Edinburgh Fringe 2018: Murray Hill: About to Break @ Gilded Balloon
New York “drag king” and comedian Murray Hill certainly has a larger-than-life personality. While this is his first - and, as he repeatedly and (possibly) jokingly states, his last - Fringe show, he is no inexperienced newcomer, having performed since 1995. However, one can’t help but feel that his personality is far too big for the dingy dungeon that is the Gilded Balloon Teviot’s Sportsmans venue.
Last night’s show felt like a singularly awkward and technically problematic affair. At certain points, some music from another act running in an adjacent venue could be heard playing in the background. Hill himself seemed a little jittery, cranky and on edge at times, something which even his constant self-effacing wisecracks couldn’t cover since he occasionally fumbled certain lines and failed to speak directly into the mic once or twice.
The core issue, however, is that his act is one which relies more heavily on interacting and joking with the audience than on his own actual material (which, to be honest, isn’t all that great). When the audience is this small, it just feels uncomfortable. When there was one guy who clearly wasn’t laughing, he picked him out on why he was failing to be amused by the show. He responded that it takes him time to get the jokes. Murray subsequently proceeded to pick on him at numerous points throughout the set in order to milk this as a gag. However, he didn’t seem game enough for this to feel anything other than incredibly awkward. He was also heard to remark at one point: “It’s a diverse audience tonight! Well, at least the curtains are black.” It’s a funny line in a close-to-the-wind sort of way, but again it needed a larger crowd and venue to really work at its best.
Things admittedly livened up a bit for a dance finale involving three willing audience members. It’s also worth pointing out that this style of comedy is definitely of the love-it-or-hate-it variety at the best of times. Overall, however, I was left with the feeling that his quips about this being his last time at the Fringe might be less humorous than they seem.
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