Most comics who come to the Edinburgh festival are here to break the big time; to get their name out there, turn some heads and perhaps even make off with a gong. Scott Gibson seems instead to treat it as something between the chez longue of a therapist, a confessional box and a squeezy stress ball, but still somehow managed to waltz off with the Best Newcomer Award for 2016’s Life After Death. Just as with that show, his latest offering Like Father Like Son visits more difficult territory in a public arena, with plenty of toilet humour and political incorrectness camouflaging a more delicate and sensitive probing of familial trauma.
The angry-shouty shtick of the Scottish stand-up is something of a cliché but Gibson isn’t about to lose any sleep over totally inhabiting the role. As a gentle easer-in to the show, he rages at everything from the audacity of anyone born after the 80s to the banker in the audience who was foolish enough to confess his profession. There’s also plenty of room for gags about his own obesity, which, although they lack the edginess and barb of his other material, do work to unify the room and endear him to audience members who might not appreciate such colourful quips as he clearly prefers.
From here, Gibson sinks his teeth into the real meat of the show, as signposted by its title – his relationship (or lack thereof) with his father. Contemplating spawning his own sprogs in the future, Gibson confesses he is worried that he will replicate the uselessness and unreliability demonstrated by his dad, providing a neat segue into the pair’s shared history. There are plenty of laughs to be had here in amongst all of the obvious distress of a broken home childhood, but when Gibson turns his attention to their recent reunion – enforced by his old yin’s deteriorating health – the mood turns more sombre and reflective.
Though scatological anecdotes and a few well-placed tirades serve to keep Gibson from straying into the waters of over-sentimentality, there’s no escaping the gravitas of his past and indeed his present situation. Clearly a form of catharsis for the man, the show will likely leave viewers with something more than aching sides, particularly if they’ve gone through an experience that is in any way similar to that of the bulky Glaswegian. Having said that, those contemplating the show shouldn’t expect a weepy end to the hour – far from it – but rather the demonstration of a unique ability in Gibson to see the humour in even the most harrowing of situations. A talent that we could all do with, no doubt.