The Counting House 17:30
John Hastings makes improv look very easy indeed. Every day he stands in front of a room full of people in a tiny, sweaty attic in Edinburgh and he records an audio podcast with no preparation whatsoever.
The ceiling on the stage is so low he often has to stoop like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Meanwhile, the electric fan at the back of the room is as loud as a Lancaster Bomber and you often cannot hear what is happening on stage. Despite that, and numerous other distractions and interruptions, Hastings manages to create some kind of comedy magic on stage.
Like all improvisors, all Hastings has to work with is what the audience give him. No doubt some days this is easier than others, but when I went to the show he was very quickly presented with comedy gold.
Sitting in the front row were a man, his wife, their thirteen year old son and a dog, Yes, you heard correctly, a dog. Who takes a f*cking dog to a fringe venue in Edinburgh and then sits in the front row of a 40 seat venue?
Our host wasted no time in turning this real-life Simpsons family into the stars of the show, deciding right from the off that there was no way he was going to moderate his language or tone down his content just because there was a minor in the room. It was, after all, the Simpsons’ own choice to bring their child and family pet into this hot house of adult filth and depravity.
Each swearword and explicit sexual reference was marked by Homer giving Bart a reassuring little hug and ruffling his hair as if to say, “Hey this is fun, isn’t it? We’re not embarrassed at all, are we?” And to be fair the dog was very well behaved and refused to bark even when a mic was stuck under his nose.
Much fun was also to be had with a bed and breakfast landlady in the second row, who told of a family who came to stay in her guest house after a fishing trip and gleefully used the sink in their room to gut and fillet their catch, filling the premises with the foul stench of gutted fish and attracting every seagull from a hundred mile radius into the back garden.
When the man sitting behind this woman turned out to be fish monger you couldn’t help wondering if the entire audience had been flown in from Central Casting.
I thoroughly enjoyed this show and having produced podcasts from an Edinburgh venue myself my only criticism would be that John’s method of recording is not really professional enough for an iTunes audience to consume the content with as much clarity as the live audience.
Also, Hastings is sadly not keeping to his promise of releasing every new episode onto his podcast feed daily. Which, let’s face it, is the whole point of doing a podcast from Edinburgh. 4 stars.