To criticise Mark Silcox for being rubbish is to misunderstand the man. Two days before the Fringe, when every other comic was in blind panic, he was facebooking about laying some concrete in his back yard. He’s the zen comedian. This is not business for him, it’s relaxation. He’s here on summer holiday – to hang out, catch up with friends, play a bit of badminton, and then, every afternoon, go to an Italian restaurant basement and deliver a quite boring lecture to strangers while making them a cuppa.
It’s still not clear to what extent he thinks or cares that he is a comedian. If I Can Cure were in the Spoken Word section of the programme, it would clear rooms. This really nice Indian chap is not king of charisma. He explains himself slowly and matter-of-factly in a monotone. But the fact he bills himself as comedy poses so many questions. He still partially clears rooms, but the head-scratching bewilderment at what he’s doing keeps some people fixated.
There are two parts to this year’s show. In the first, he decries commercial cough remedies and offers his own solution. There’s no comical element to this; he’s just passing on his wisdom. A propos of nothing, he also makes everyone some fresh cooked chickpeas.
In the second part, following a tea break, he holds up laminates of different species to explain the incidence of homosexuality and hermaphroditism in the animal kingdom. And then he makes hydrogen in a bottle.
Among all this, there are two moments where, intentionally or not, he creases the crowd over with laughter. Moment one: he tells us “I’m going to read the definition of piles,” and then proceeds to read a definition of piles. Moment two: he is midway through reading the whole history of evolution – “4.6 billion years ago the Earth was formed… 370 million years ago amphibians evolved… ” – when he interrupts himself. “I know this is the boring science part, so that’s why I give you cups of tea.”
It’s heartless to advise someone not to go see Mark Silcox – his show’s free, and he’s a thoroughly pleasant man of wisdom. But be very sure what you’re letting yourself in for. It’s so anti-comical and anti-theatrical, it’s almost performance art.
And he is totally right – fresh chickpeas are way tastier than the canned ones.