Many acts choose show titles with little appeal to the masses, then wonder why hardly anyone shows up. But with Christianity and Me, comedian Nick Dixon is fully aware upfront that his chosen topic will actively put off many punters. It’s a deeply subversive move in the world of stand-up comedy, and at the Fringe. But artistically and comedically it pays off.
His audience is a range of perhaps five decades and no doubt from his chats with us, made up of individuals with varying perspectives, beliefs and views. It’s a controversial title that doesn’t scream ‘comedy gold’ and could risk making many an audience uncomfortable. But what we actually get is a totally refreshing set, with a steady stream of collective big laughs, great observations, personal vulnerability and openness from a comedian who puts his audience instantly at ease.
Hack and repetition of topics are rife in Edinburgh in August. With around 3,500 shows a day, it’s inevitable. So material that offers surprising levels of originality is as welcome as a venue with air-con. And Dixon delivers originality in droves through his kind but sharp humoured approach, part of his shtick probing into the reasons why putting on a show with this title meets such responses.
There’s no sense of backing off from his subject matter either – he’s direct, honest, yet very funny in telling his experiences of becoming a Christian. And he’s unapologetic in his on-topic audience interaction, the banter in these moments proving him as capable off the cuff, as ‘on script’. It’s especially skilfully handled given that he’s boldly treading on what’s potentially sensitive territory, openly chatting and riffing on faith, agnosticism and atheism.
Dixon is a seasoned comedian, albeit not (yet) a ‘name’. He’s been on Comedy Central, at the Comedy Store, written jokes for Disney and toured internationally. His career pre-dates his conversion, enabling him to span what can be a very large divide, between the world of the churched and that of comedy clubs. He tells us this show is still a work in progress – and it seems he perhaps doesn’t quite have the full confidence in it yet.
Comedy is often at its best when mined from seemingly incompatible places. Here jokes about Jesus mingle with stories about porn, sex (or lack of it), communion wafers and the Copts to great effect. Christianity and Me is reverent, but very, very funny and suitable for those with any or no belief.