Do Not Take Advice from this Man: Jim Smallman and Friends

Tuesday, 30 August, 2011

A laugh out loud stand-up comedy experience

Edinburgh ’11,  Globe Pub  – Niddry St, Edinburgh  5th – 28th Aug at 14.15

Jim Smallman - the illustrated man

On a tiny stage in a dark corner of a pub in the middle of the afternoon, Jim Smallman created a nightclub atmosphere with relaxed ease. He introduced us to his two companions on the stage, who listened in attentively, while Mr. Smallman set the pace and tenor for the gig. He introduced one of them, Simon Feilder as the tiredest man in the world, explaining 2pm in Edinburgh during the Festival was the equivalent of 5am anywhere else on the planet. Comedians work late in Edinburgh and this free afternoon show was functioning as an early advertising slot for shows on elsewhere in town later in the evening, He was making his fellow comedians laugh and relax as well as entertaining the crowd. The other performer was Billy Kirkwood.

Jim Smallman had an unusually packed house. A teenage school group from a well known St. Andrew’s secondary school, studying Journalism, had landed unexpectedly. He declared himself to be terrified. He also declared himself to be an ex-teacher perfectly capable of stopping any errant nonsense in its tracks. He had everyone laughing from the outset and proceeded to terrify the mixed age audience by declaring he would find out what their problems were to give great advice to solve them from the stage. Much giggling ensued.

He then gave hilarious examples of problems already solved earlier in the week and began asking people to put up their hands if they had a problem seeking solution. After a few entertaining false starts a young man at the back of the room volunteered as his target and a non-threatening, gentle exchange began where he asked questions, heard the answers around which he improvised witty responses and irreverent comments before moving on to ask the teachers present who was their most challenging pupil in the room. This question was answered, “fingering” a young lad in the front row, who became the next anchor for the humour, which strode the edge between put down and ego boosting with great skill. Much good humour flowed in the room and the balance between the wit from the stage and the comments in the room never rocked out of Smallman’s deft control

He was sharing banter on the stage with the other two comedians, Simon who was half asleep and Billy who was wide awake, as tattoo covered as Jim Smallman. An alert, declaredly working class Scot, he was warm and helpfully entertaining, hinting that the St.Andrew’s University town school kids might be a little more posh middle class than the present English Comedians on stage with him understood, Simon made “ unhelpful remarks” about young girls in school uniforms, pedo-magnets and other such “ too early for this material “ remarks to pepper the inoffensive banter of his companions, creating the opportunity for the other two to put him down with gusto. Their exchanges on the stage were often fun, creating an interesting dynamic which allowed good-natured humour to emerge, while never patronising the young people, who were thoroughly entertained by the stories Jim Smallman tells of his mistakes and successes in life. It was a masterclass in stand-up comedy and in entertaining teenagers well enough to create smiles of recognition,  provoking the laughter of fears being transformed to relaxation in an “I share-You share” camaraderie.

Towards the end of the time shared there was a long exchange with a young woman in the audience who described the worst experience she had in her life of dumping a boyfriend in a cowardly manner, in response to a direct question from the stage. She could have been a plant, she was so confident in her responding to his egging on. Her story was funny and grew from the encouragement she received from this generous hearted comedian. He then asked her about her work. When she said she drove ships all three comedians exploded into impressed banter. She described having driven warships from the Arctic to the Equator and from the Equator to the Antarctic in a matter of fact manner which gave Jim Smallman ideal circumstances in which to create even more laughter. He improvised around chat up lines and managed to celebrate a heroine in the midst of chaos before returning to questioning the young people about their love lives. He had made allies of them early on describing being bullied because his name was Smallman, having heard every related joke and put down early in his school life. Two or three of the boys in the class were willing to bounce ideas back and forward with him and everyone left the Globe a little early because the school party were heading for the train, having happily dropped coins in the bucket to say Thank you for 50mins of smiles and laughter, friendly banter and wise crack remarks, laced through endearing stories and splendidly compassionate humane observations. He finished displaying his latest Tattoo asking us to go see  “Tattooligan” so that he could make the money to pay for it. This is a very talented, winning young man with a powerful comic gift.


(c)  Lilian Kennedy Brzoska 2011


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