Jonny Pelham: Optimism Over Despair

The last few shows I’d seen at the Fringe before seeing Jonny Pelham’s stand-up comedy hour were all in rather packed venues, and while I’m not complaining about full houses, it was a blessed relief to have a bit of breathing space in this show, at least at the performance I attended. So many comedians have told triumph over adversity stories in their shows, but Pelham found that after an appearance on ‘Live at the Apollo’, some viewers had misunderstood what he was trying to achieve.

Jonny Pelham. Photo by Steve Ullathorne.
Jonny Pelham. Photo by Steve Ullathorne.

He only had, as every comedian on that television show does, a fairly short amount of on-air time, and he was under pressure to talk about the child abuse he suffered, which was the subject matter for a previous Fringe comedy hour. Complaints went in after the episode of ‘Live at the Apollo’ he performed at was broadcast, with certain television viewers saying Pelham must not joke about child abuse, even his own.

The fallout was enough to make him seek help, and fair play to him for doing that. This was a deeply personal comedy hour (I trust his significant other has consented to Fringe audiences being told what their disposable income level is relative to his), covering a wide range of his own views and experiences, including a pro-vegetarian stance and problems down below – for the record, the two are not mutually exclusive.

It seemed clear to me that Pelham is on a journey, and while he’s on the way back up from a substantial knockdown, this show’s story felt incomplete. That’s partly because it is, and so we wait for the next instalment of Pelham’s lived experiences, whenever he’s ready to tell all once more. In the meantime, while every comedy act is in a way unique, Jonny Pelham covers ground many other standups would rather avoid. Compelling and thought-provoking stuff.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

After his award-winning 2019 Edinburgh Show, Jonny Pelham makes a welcome return to this year’s Fringe Festival and to the prestigious Pleasance Courtyard Upstairs with his brand new and fifth show ‘Optimism Over Despair.

Jonny Pelham: Optimism Over Despair
Pleasance Courtyard: Upstairs
Dates: 2nd – 27th August 2023

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