'Functionally mentally ill' comic who's capable of greatness, as long as you don't mind it steeped in grubby depravity
‘Functionally mentally ill’ – that’s the strapline for bobbymair.com, and it’s not entirely clear whether the Canadian comic is being sincere. It’d be a brave (and somewhat insensitive) interviewer who’d put it to him so bluntly, but it’s a question that begs asking: just how disturbed is Bobby Mair?
On the evidence of tonight’s pay-what-you-want show, the answer is: reasonably. It’s not just an issue of his material, which is a grubbier take on the kind of bad-taste offensiveness that Frankie Boyle and Jimmy Carr have made their bread and butter. One short story has him gouging out an opponent’s eyes in a night bus altercation; in another, he witnesses a lewd act that’s made far worse by the fact it takes place in a KFC toilet.
No, the main source of nervous uncertainty with Mr Mair is in his delivery. For the most part, he relates his disconnected, grotesque vignettes with a bemused, possibly medicated drawl that’s abruptly shattered when he screams abuse at unfortunate audience members. The overall effect is of a psychotic Mitch Hedberg (which is possibly a quality that Hedberg buddy and outspoken comic Doug Stanhope saw in him when he offered Mair some supporting slots back in the day). And, as with Hedberg, there’s a sort of gifted, off-kilter purity to his observations – you just have to be comfortable wading through the grime of paedophilia, incest and ultraviolence to see it.
Whether or not the show excels into greatness depends on Mair picking suitably warped foils from the audience, which in fairness seems to be one of his strengths. In a show that generally produced guilty chuckles tinged with disgust, the most honest belly-laughs came from a discussion with a game audience member about the unexpected benefits of cocaine soaked in urine, which developed into a series of gut-bustingly inappropriate infomercials. If you’re inclined towards depravity, and lucky enough to catch him with a good crowd, this could be one of your top shows of the Fringe; without that set of fortunate circumstances, though, you may just leave feeling both vaguely icky about yourself and concerned about the twitchy guy holding out a bucket out for your change.