Note: This review is from the 2015 Fringe

@ Sweet Grassmarket, Edinburgh, until Sun 30 Aug 2015 @ 12:45

If the first challenge in passing as a bona fide comedian is to be universally liked, then Alex Watts’ career is assured. He is eminently affable, astoundingly intelligent, and even—that rare comedic quality—original.

25 Stories started life as the surreptitious escape route of a man metaphorically chained to an admin desk. Over time, the stories multiplied, and widened in scope, to reflect Watts’ experiences in other mind-numbing jobs (numbering Waterstones bookseller among them), and such disparate concerns as Shakespeare’s afterlife, and free range punctuation.

While the subject matter isn’t always new, Watts’ approach is decidedly his own, and he is brave enough to include a number of stories which don’t close with a punchline. Watts packs his too-fleeting hour with carefully crafted jokes of both the overt and the blink-and-you-miss-‘em kinds, that have the audience chortling away from the outset, and put them firmly on his side.

What makes this performer truly stand out, though, is his ability to ad-lib responses that are even funnier than those he has scripted. A mild propensity to ‘erm’ here and there, interrupts the flow a little, but even this quirk is endearing. It might be trite to describe Watts as Benedict Cumberbatch meets Matt Smith’s Doctor doing stand-up, but it is no less a compliment, and does at least go part-way to explicating the remarkable quality that he possesses. It’s a tiny room, but a sell-out show, and Alex Watts should go from strength to strength.