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Ali Woods: Best Friend Ever at Underbelly – The Clover Room

There’s been a lot of discussion on Edinburgh Fringe stages this year about mental health, and unusual behaviours that might just have been temporary and directly linked to public health restrictions being enforced, or something much deeper. Few, however, plumb the depths Ali Woods does in his show, going into detail about how he’s actually done his best to help a friend through some tough times, emotionally and psychologically. It wasn’t an easy thing to do – as Woods points out, women are (overall) better able to get together and have cathartic experiences, laugh and cry together and talk about whatever issues are bugging them.

Ali Woods - photo by Steve Ullathorne.
Ali Woods – photo by Steve Ullathorne.

For men, however, the strategy is usually to deflect and avoid – change the subject, for instance, and talk about the weather, or football, or how bad the weather was at the football. The only answer to, “You all right?” is “Yes”, whatever the actual circumstances. But how does a bloke go about checking in with a mate of his to see whether things are genuinely okay or otherwise a little ropey, or indeed absolutely terrible, without being laughed at and/or sounding like a complete loser?

Woods suggests going for it with boldness and tenacity (however frightened you may be on the inside). The worst that could happen is a mere misunderstanding – that things are okay, or so a friend says, and help need not be dispensed to someone who feels they have no need of it. Woods’ friend, however, had been diagnosed with depression, and so, with that mixture of assertiveness and trepidation, he asked what he could do to help. After some thought, his friend replied that he enjoyed cooking for others. So Woods found himself helping a good friend by satisfying a basic physiological need.

I was blown away by this comedy hour: mental health is more often than not the ‘serious’ bit in a comedy show, a minute or two of reflection before resuming a series of gags about tits and sh*ts. Here, it’s front and centre from start to finish in a set that I found immensely humorous. There are digressions into, amongst other things, attempts to pull in a nightclub, what the deal is with anti-vaxxers, and a friendship breakup.

A relaxed conversational style puts the audience at ease in this perceptive and phenomenal show.

5 Star Rating

Review by Chris Omaweng

Rising comedy star Ali Woods brings his highly-anticipated debut stand-up hour, ‘Best Friend Ever’ to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this August.

He tackles all the big topics; Scottish mothers, sex parties, karate teachers, and mental breakdowns. During the worst of the global pandemic, while Ali was trying to survive lockdowns with a close friend, he was shocked to discover something unexpected about himself – that he is, in fact, a terrible friend. This is the hilarious and heart-felt biographical story about Ali’s attempts to become more helpful and less… himself.

Bound & Gagged Comedy Presents
Ali Woods: Best Friend Ever
Underbelly – The Clover Room: 3rd – 28th August: 5:25pm
https://www.edfringe.com/

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