The term ‘man-child’ can be insulting or complimentary depending on the context. On the one hand, a man-child can embody the kind of immaturity that’s given to petty tantrums and juvenile swearing; on the other, they can symbolise a childlike sense of wonder and innocence. David O’Doherty, with his homemade haircut, primary-coloured t-shirt and just-in-from-playtime tracky jacket, embodies the archetype of the weird, oddball kid – the wee boy who never got picked for sports and spends his time quite happily imagining bizarre little scenarios for the friends he’s created in his head.
Which doesn’t mean he’s at all tragic or pathetic, by the way. O’Doherty practically bounds on-stage with limitless confidence, boasting that this year (his fifteenth on the Fringe) will be his last before superstardom – before he’s playing stadiums and giving his celebrity children names like ‘TMO and Goujon’. For the time being, though, he’s happy to entertain his loyal followers with quirky routines set to Casio keyboard melodies and the same little oddities he’s been amusing his imaginary friends with for years.
It’s a sense of safety and comfiness that slightly lets the show down – it’s all still good fun, of course, but there’s a suggestion that he’s discovered a successfully kooky formula and is unwilling to diverge from it as long as it puts bums on seats. He’s as good as ever at coining wonderful turns of phrase, many of them tinged by that sense of childhood imagination unfettered by logic: Katie Hopkins, for example, is ‘worse than ISIS multiplied by sharks’. But the problem with man-children is that they’ve stalled at a certain stage of development, and there’s only a certain amount of respect you can give to someone who refuses to move into – and beyond – puberty.