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Home arrow Archive: Earlier Fringes arrow Archive: Edinburgh 2012 arrow Computer Programmer Extraordinaire
 
Computer Programmer Extraordinaire
Published on Monday, 27 August 2012
4

4 stars

Globe
Comedy
4-13, 15-25 Aug, 4:45pm-5:35pm
Reviewed by Liam McKenna

 Free and unticketed. No pre-booking required.
 Recommended for age 18+ only. Venue may not permit under-18's - check with venue before booking.

A thoughtful voiceover tells us that this show has a “50% walkout rate,” and advises us to leave now so we don’t have to face awkward put downs mid-way through the show, such as “You poo poo head.” This is the world of Hemel Hempstead-based computer programmer Raph Shirley, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that he might not necessarily be for real.

Raph enters the stage in his Berghaus fleece and grey jogging bottoms, and proceeds to take us through some admin, delaying the start by a further five minutes. Already he’s testing the audience’s patience; he makes it plain that his jokes are going to be terrible and makes a plea for whoever has been pilfering spoons from the venue to return them anonymously during the show. It’s a mixture of cringe comedy and farce. The term ‘so bad it’s good’ feels apt.

The audience cogs are still turning 10 minutes in. You see the expressions on people’s faces. Is he being serious? Not everyone is convinced. To me it seems Raph Shirley has found a niche in character comedy, somewhere between Napolean Dynamite and Angelos Epithemou. He talks of life as a computer programmer. He passes round a photo of a computer mouse he’s particularly fond of. “What do I know about computers?” is a question he’s frequently asked. “Nothing. Nobody knows anything about computers.”

Shirley has big business ideas. He runs out of meetings because you should “always leave them wanting more,” and promotes his blog which covers “all the big issues” like “race, politics and inter-stellar star dust.” He admires our tolerance of his solar system routine. He is still expecting a mass walkout. He mentions his show last year where he performed to a solitary 90-year-old man who got lost on his way to the Military Tattoo, which includes the cracking line: “I don’t know if you are familiar with the elderly?” The story ends up with Shirley and the 90-year-old in a compromising scenario involving guacamole and a fart, which he demonstrates by way of blowing a raspberry for a full-minute: the true test of audience-endurance. “I can’t believe you’re still here!” he quips.

This has the potential to be fantastic alternative character comedy. Audiences may find it a little alienating at first, but once you’re on-board you go with it. There are a few bits that need some tweaking (where the jokes aren’t quite as awful as they should be to reel in the laughs), but there is a lot of promise, and it’s certainly original.

We’re almost there. He assures us there’s not long to go, before veering off into a segment about his work colleagues and the time he shoved his boss into stinging nettles while contemplating his future. And it’s done. Mission accomplished. He located the spoons and there wasn’t a single walkout.

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