Note: This review is from the 2018 Fringe

Simon Caine must be one of the hardest-grafting comedians on the Fringe. Running podcasts, managing forums, organising the Fringe food bank collection, he’s nothing if not committed. That willingness to knuckle down pays dividends in this well-crafted hour that feels strongly built and well-rehearsed.

No surprises from the title but the schtick here is thirty-something loser living with his parents. Caine’s take is smarter than most though, avoiding the most obvious clichés and instead adding some more cerebral stuff into the mix. Quick one liners rub shoulders with more involved material that rewards you paying full attention.

To start with, we get an anecdote about a stunt that his mate Tim (Renkow, one presumes) pulled, which establishes Caine’s appreciation for a slightly warped way of seeing the world. We get a sense of his family too, through the misunderstandings he has with his parents, whose quirks may be travelling down the family line. Caine’s father, for instance, is uncommonly proud of the grand staircase in the family home, the sort of weird obsession you can imagine Caine himself cultivating.

A story about his mother leads circuitously, via talk of time travel, to what might have happened if Hitler’s painting career had taken off. That opening parry might be a little oblique, but it sets up lots of callbacks. Hitler’s paintings become a recurring motif.

He gives a nice take on why he’s ditching the gym – it’s actually feminist solidarity, don’t you know? And then he introduces us to the side-job he has reviewing sex toys. Plenty of comic potential here, not least for a guy living with his folks.

All this has the hallmarks of something that’s been slaved over and analysed and worked at. It’s in good shape as a result, but we do miss some breezy casualness, and throwaway lines that actually feel throwaway. Callbacks are good but drop a little deliberately, allowing us to see his workings. There’s also a lot of meta stuff about how lines land, and how it’s been structured, which sometimes don’t fit with how they’ve landed today. It doesn’t interfere with the humour in the material, but does stop us feeling the flow. In the end, that sense we’re being performed at, rather than played with, is the thing that stops Caine’s leaps of imagination and clever links really taking off.