Neil Sinclair tells jokes. And he does it quite well. And he really does seem like a nice guy. If that isn’t reason enough to like him a very normal amount, then I don’t know what is.
Neil’s 2013 Fringe show Charmingly Useless takes the audience through an unrelated array of anecdotes and one-liners, some more successful than others but all of them authentic and heartfelt. From his friendship with the original Guess Who kid to his deep-rooted issues about men knitting, Sinclair seduces the audience with his mild-mannered humour and cheeky slacker approachability.
Some early lulls in the humour gave way later to solid comedic moments, and it seemed like these were the better-prepared, less-improvised jokes. Who would think to look up ‘grassy knoll’ in the dictionary, after all? (It turns out that grassy knolls exist exclusively in the realm of conspiracy theorists—who knew?) Amongst some mildly amusing explorations of the art of small talk, a strange skit about dating ‘deal breakers’ and a lot of high-pitched Englishness, Sinclair slowly won the audience over with his unique mix of enthusiasm and wicked one-liners.
Highlights for me lay in the more narrative-based, arguably less cheap laughs—visions of the Dark Knight turning up to entertain the kids at a child’s birthday party will be haunting me for several weeks—but this really is comedy for people who like jokes. The jokes may be more Rowan Atkinson than Mitch Hedburg, but jokes are what Neil does. When they are good, they are great, and when they aren’t that good, well, you are so damn distracted by how likeable Neil is that you just don’t notice.
Neil Sinclair’s “Charmingly Useless” is playing 29 September to 6 October at the Melbourne Fringe Festival.