Cahill’s show makes a great case study in how a dull niche subject needn’t be a barrier to great comedy if it’s skilfully opened up for the masses. With some clever chicanery, you can give rein to your inner trainspotter and get people laughing their socks off.
This show’s framed as a paean to coarse fishing – surely up there with stamp collecting and wargaming as tragically unhip dad hobbies. All the same, it’s strangely soothing to be greeted by the sight of Cahill lolling in a chair, fishing rod by his side. In a hectic Fringe, it suggests a meditative hour, even if it doesn’t entirely stay that way.
Cahill’s tactic to get to the funny bits is to skip lightly over technical details to give us a flavour of his pastime and then utilise obscure fish references to reinforce the comedy. “I was fishing for [insert weird fish] at [insert remote watercourse] when…” With that technique he can leap out of the main flow onto some solid comic ground – the daft edits of Cranberries and Enrique Iglesias songs he made while waiting for a catch, for instance. He also uses a fishy (in both senses) analogy of the class system to set-up a segment on the mating habits of his middle-class housemates.
Some elements do get shoehorned in without even a cursory nod to the fishing theme. A surf rock number about how grandma shafted us all with Brexit is one such moment where the thematic link gets completely severed. Funny, but it feels like it pre-dates the rest of the show, so stands out a bit.
The main running thread contrasts the meditative aspects of fishing with the “black dog” of instant gratification, an animal he gives life to by donning a doggy balaclava. Again, this is mainly an excuse for silly songs, delivered with Nick Cave moroseness, but there is vague reason to the rhyme. Somewhere, buried beneath it all, there’s a vindication of the famous Stanford marshmallow experiment. He actually runs his own version of the test by casting out a rod and marshmallow bait into the audience, seeing if a human will bite.
Perhaps initial impressions weren’t wrong after all – this is a meditative hour, with moments of profundity. It’s just also been enjoyably madcap along the way.