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McNeil and Pamphilon: Addicted To Danger!
Published on Thursday, 26 May 2011

3 stars

Upstairs at Three and Ten (venue website)
24-25 May, 10:00pm-10:55pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Suitable for age 15+ only.
 Warning: Contains strong language.
 World Premiere.

It's become the fashion - sometimes on these very pages - to yawn ostentatiously at comedy pairings of young, white, middle-class men.  It's deeply unfair of course, since none of us should have to apologize for who we are; but it's true to say that if your birth gave you no distinctive feature, you'd really better invent something to fill the gap.

Addicted To Danger recognizes the issue, but to my mind, doesn't tackle it in the wisest of ways.  Its over-arching theme, discussed between the sketches, is just how average the two men really are.  Portraying themselves as minor comedians who came to the craft too late, they talk a lot about their day jobs - before signing off with a deconstruction of just how formulaic a two-man comedy song can sometimes be.  There's even a sketch about how rubbish their sketch is, which ironically, had one of the best punchlines of the night.

McNeil and Pamphilon aren't really average.  They're relaxed and comfortable on the stage, and the funniest moments came when things went a little bit wrong, giving them the chance to riff with each other and let their genuinely-engaging personalities shine through.  Pamphilon has a marvellously expressive face - he even has expressive hair - and uses his talents well, whether he's playing an inquisitive kid or the creepy expert from an antiques show.  McNeil seemed less on-form as the straight man, but I enjoyed the few sketches which gave him the chance to shine in his own right, with a gentler humour providing a well-judged contrast to Pamphilon's wide-eyed comedy posing.

Too many of the jokes, though, relied on the shock value of blurting out something you shouldn't really say - which worked well enough when delivered sharply, but often dragged for far longer than the gag could truly support.  I wanted to see more of the subtler stuff.  A sketch about infertility benefitted from its more serious tone, with the pain of the father who can't conceive an excellent counterpoint to its inevitably-outrageous conclusion.  A piece tackling both racism and Osama Bin Laden was a highlight too - and one of the few parts of the show which justified its "dangerous" title.

As a mix of material brought back from 2010 and this year's planned Edinburgh show, it's unsurprising that some sketches felt better-developed than others.  And once the whole show is lifted to the same level as its best, I'd happily see it again; the true danger, though, is that they'll end up treading water in the midst of a huge talent pool.  So I hope that by August, they'll manage to find a distinctive voice - something we really can get addicted to.

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